Beta Carotene

Beta Carotene is a natural pigment synthesized by plants. It is found in orange and yellow fruits like cantaloupe, apricots, papaya, squash, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and even leafy greens and broccoli. It has antioxidant and immune-stimulant properties. Among other benefits, it is known to protect us from free radicals, decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases, and maintain epithelial functions. However, there is still a lack of studies establishing the effects of Beta Carotene on many diseases and ailments.

Beta Carotene and Cancer

While there are some studies that highlight the contribution of Beta Carotene in the treatment of various types of cancer, there are conflicting studies too which suggest that it may increase the risk of certain cancers.

  • High dietary intake of Beta Carotene may reduce the risk of cervical cancer.
  • On the other hand, high serum levels of beta carotene might be associated with prostate cancer.
  • In a case-controlled study it was found that higher concentrations of plasma carotenoids were associated with a reduced risk of urothelial cell carcinoma.
  • In another study, no association was found between the consumption of beta carotene, vitamins A, C, fruits, and vegetables and the risk of renal cell carcinoma.
  • In a systematic review and meta-analyses it was found that supplements like antioxidants, beta carotene, and vitamins (A, C, and E) cannot prevent gastrointestinal cancer. On the contrary, beta carotene might increase the overall mortality.
  • In male smokers, over the age of 40, regular supplementation with beta carotene might increase the risk of lung cancer. 
  • If a patient is a smoker and takes beta carotene supplementation, then it might reduce the efficacy of cancer therapies and result in increased recurrence and mortality.
  • Alcohol consumption can have a negative impact on the chemopreventive property of beta carotene.

References & More information

  1. Credit: Beyond Conventional Care Therapies
  2. Integrative Oncology Cancer Care
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  4. Vivekananthan DP, Penn MS, Sapp SK, et al. Use of antioxidant vitamins for the prevention of cardiovascular disease: meta-analysis of randomised trials. Lancet. Jun 14 2003;361(9374):2017-2023.
  5. Grodstein F, Kang JH, Glynn RJ, et al. A randomized trial of beta carotene supplementation and cognitive function in men: the Physicians’ Health Study II. Arch Intern Med. Nov 12 2007;167(20):2184-2190.
  6. Zhang PY, Xu X, Li XC. Cardiovascular diseases: oxidative damage and antioxidant protection. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2014 Oct;18(20):3091-6.
  7. Ghosh C, Baker JA, Moysich KB, et al. Dietary intakes of selected nutrients and food groups and risk of cervical cancer. Nutr Cancer. May-Jun 2008;60(3):331-341.
  8. Peters U, Leitzmann MF, Chatterjee N, et al. Serum lycopene, other carotenoids, and prostate cancer risk: a nested case-control study in the prostate, lung, colorectal, and ovarian cancer screening trial. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. May 2007;16(5):962-968.
  9. Ros MM, Bueno-de-Mesquita HB, Kampman E, et al. Plasma carotenoids and vitamin C concentrations and risk of urothelial cell carcinoma in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Oct;96(4):902-10.
  10. Bertoia M, Albanes D, Mayne ST, et al. No association between fruit, vegetables, antioxidant nutrients and risk of renal cell carcinoma. Int J Cancer. 2010 Mar 15;126(6):1504-12.
  11. Bjelakovic G, Nikolova D, Simonetti RG, et al. Antioxidant supplements for prevention of gastrointestinal cancers: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet. Oct 2-8 2004;364(9441):1219-1228.
  12. Bjelakovic G, Nikolova D, Simonetti RG, et al. Antioxidant supplements for preventing gastrointestinal cancers. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008(3):CD004183.
  13. The Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta Carotene Cancer Prevention Study Group. The effect of vitamin E and beta carotene on the incidence of lung cancer and other cancers in male smokers. N Engl J Med. Apr 14 1994;330(15):1029-1035.
  14. Satia JA, Littman A, Slatore CG, Galanko JA, White E. Long-term use of beta-carotene, retinol, lycopene, and lutein supplements and lung cancer risk: results from the VITamins And Lifestyle (VITAL) study. Am J Epidemiol. 2009 Apr 1;169(7):815-28.
  15. Meyer F, Bairati I, Fortin A, et al. Interaction between antioxidant vitamin supplementation and cigarette smoking during radiation therapy in relation to long-term effects on recurrence and mortality: a randomized trial among head and neck cancer patients. Int J Cancer. Apr 1 2008;122(7):1679-1683.
  16. Leo MA, Lieber CS. Alcohol, vitamin A, and beta-carotene: adverse interactions, including hepatotoxicity and carcinogenicity. Am J Clin Nutr. Jun 1999;69(6):1071-1085.
  17. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: Beta-Carotene.
  19. Lone Star Medical Group: Natural Alternative Treatments
  20. Therapeutic Research Center: Natural Medicines Database

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