Intake of specific carotenoids and risk of lung cancer in 2 prospective US cohorts

Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Oct;72(4):990-7. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/72.4.990.


Background: Carotenoids may reduce lung carcinogenesis because of their antioxidant properties; however, few studies have examined the relation between intakes of individual carotenoids and lung cancer risk.

Objective: The aim of this study was to examine the relation between lung cancer risk and intakes of alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, and beta-cryptoxanthin in 2 large cohorts.

Design: During a 10-y follow-up period, 275 new cases of lung cancer were diagnosed in 46924 men; during a 12-y follow-up period, 519 new cases were diagnosed in 77283 women. Carotenoid intakes were derived from the reported consumption of fruit and vegetables on food-frequency questionnaires administered at baseline and during follow-up. The data were analyzed separately for each cohort and the results were pooled to compute overall relative risks (RRs).

Results: In the pooled analyses, alpha-carotene and lycopene intakes were significantly associated with a lower risk of lung cancer; the association with beta-carotene, lutein, and beta-cryptoxanthin intakes were inverse but not significant. Lung cancer risk was significantly lower in subjects who consumed a diet high in a variety of carotenoids (RR: 0.68; 95% CI: 0.49, 0.94 for highest compared with lowest total carotenoid score category). Inverse associations were strongest after a 4-8-y lag between dietary assessment and date of diagnosis. In subjects who never smoked, a 63% lower incidence of lung cancer was observed for the top compared with the bottom quintile of alpha-carotene intake (RR: 0.37; 95% CI: 0.18, 0.77).

Conclusion: Data from 2 cohort studies suggest that several carotenoids may reduce the risk of lung cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carotenoids / administration & dosage*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cryptoxanthins
  • Eating / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Lutein / administration & dosage
  • Lycopene
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Xanthophylls
  • beta Carotene / administration & dosage
  • beta Carotene / analogs & derivatives


  • Cryptoxanthins
  • Xanthophylls
  • beta Carotene
  • Carotenoids
  • alpha-carotene
  • Lycopene
  • Lutein