Effects of supplemental alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene on urinary tract cancer: incidence and mortality in a controlled trial (Finland)

Cancer Causes Control. 2000 Dec;11(10):933-9. doi: 10.1023/a:1026546803917.


Objectives: Epidemiological studies have suggested a protective effect of vegetables and fruits on urinary tract cancer but the possible protective nutrients are unknown. We studied the effect of alpha-tocopherol (a form of vitamin E) and beta-carotene supplementation on urinary tract cancer in the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention (ATBC) Study.

Methods: A total of 29,133 male smokers aged 50-69 years from southwestern Finland were randomly assigned to receive alpha-tocopherol (50 mg), beta-carotene (20 mg), both agents, or a placebo daily for 5-8 years (median 6.1 years). Incident urothelial cancers (bladder, ureter, and renal pelvis; n = 169) and renal cell cancers (n = 102) were identified through the nationwide cancer registry. The diagnoses were centrally confirmed by review of medical records and pathology specimens. The supplementation effects were estimated using a proportional hazards model.

Results: Neither alpha-tocopherol nor beta-carotene affected the incidence of urothelial cancer, relative risk 1.1 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.8-1.5) and 1.0 (95% CI 0.7-1.3), respectively, or the incidence of renal cell cancer, relative risk 1.1 (95% CI 0.7-1.6) and 0.8 (95% CI 0.6-1.3), respectively.

Conclusion: Long-term supplementation with alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene has no preventive effect on urinary tract cancers in middle-aged male smokers.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Urologic Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Urologic Neoplasms / mortality
  • Urologic Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Vitamin E / administration & dosage
  • Vitamin E / pharmacology*
  • beta Carotene / administration & dosage
  • beta Carotene / pharmacology*


  • Antioxidants
  • beta Carotene
  • Vitamin E