Serum carotenoid levels and risk of lung cancer death in US adults

Cancer Sci. 2014 Jun;105(6):736-43. doi: 10.1111/cas.12405. Epub 2014 May 6.


Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers worldwide and is the leading cause of cancer-induced death in the USA. Although much attention has been focused on the anti-carcinogenic effect of consuming carotenoid-containing food or supplements, the results have been inconsistent. We investigated whether serum carotenoid levels were associated with the mortality risk of lung cancer in US adults using data from a nationally representative sample. The data were obtained from the Third Nutrition and Health Examination Survey (NHANES III) database and the NHANES III Linked Mortality File. A total of 10,382 participants aged over 20,years with available serum carotenoid levels and no other missing information on questionnaires and biomarkers at baseline (NHANES III) were included in the present study. Of the 10,382 participants, 161 subjects died due to lung cancer. We found that high serum levels of alpha-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin at baseline were significantly associated with a lower risk of lung cancer death. When we stratified the risk by current smoking status, the risk of death of current smokers was significantly decreased to 46% (95% confidence interval, 31-94%) for alpha-carotene and 61% (95% confidence interval, 19-80%) for beta-cryptoxanthin. By contrast, no association was observed among never/former smokers at baseline. High serum levels of alpha-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin are associated with a lower risk of lung cancer death in US adults.

Keywords: Alpha-carotene; beta-cryptoxanthin; lung cancer; oxidative stress; smoking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood*
  • Carotenoids / blood*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cryptoxanthins
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / blood*
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / blood*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Xanthophylls / blood*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Cryptoxanthins
  • Xanthophylls
  • Carotenoids
  • alpha-carotene