It has been suggested that dietary carotenoids can enhance immune function. Supplementation with beta-carotene (15 mg daily) was previously shown to enhance human monocyte function. To examine the effect of other dietary carotenoids, two similar independent studies were done. Healthy adult male nonsmokers were randomly assigned to receive lycopene (study 1), lutein (study 2), or placebo for 26 days, followed by the alternative treatment for another 26 days. The expression of functionally related monocyte surface molecules was quantified by laser flow cytometry before and after each treatment period. There was a significant increase in plasma levels of each carotenoid following dietary supplementation, but the effects on monocyte surface molecule expression were not as striking as those observed after beta-carotene supplementation. These findings emphasize that it cannot be assumed that the effect of one carotenoid will be the same as another, even at the same level of intake.