Although the avocado is known as a rich source of monounsaturated fatty acids, there has been far less attention given to its content of other bioactive substances including carotenoids, which might contribute to cancer preventive properties similar to those attributed to other fruits and vegetables. The yellow-green color of the avocado prompted us to study the carotenoid content of this fruit using established methods in our laboratory. The California Hass avocado (Persea americana Mill.) was selected for study, because it is the most commonly consumed variety in the southwest United States. These avocados were found to contain the highest content of lutein among commonly eaten fruits as well as measurable amounts of related carotenoids (zeaxanthin, alpha-carotene, and beta-carotene). Lutein accounted for 70% of the measured carotenoids, and the avocado also contained significant quantities of vitamin E. An acetone extract of avocado containing these carotenoids and tocopherols was shown to inhibit the growth of both androgen-dependent (LNCaP) and androgen-independent (PC-3) prostate cancer cell lines in vitro. Incubation of PC-3 cells with the avocado extract led to G(2)/M cell cycle arrest accompanied by an increase in p27 protein expression. Lutein alone did not reproduce the effects of the avocado extract on cancer cell proliferation. In common with other colorful fruits and vegetables, the avocado contains numerous bioactive carotenoids. Because the avocado also contains a significant amount of monounsaturated fat, these bioactive carotenoids are likely to be absorbed into the bloodstream, where in combination with other diet-derived phytochemicals they may contribute to the significant cancer risk reduction associated with a diet of fruits and vegetables.