Carotenoid Intake from Natural Sources and Head and Neck Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Epidemiological Studies

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2015 Jul;24(7):1003-11. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-15-0053. Epub 2015 Apr 14.


Because of their role as antioxidants, the intake of carotenoids has been hypothesized to reduce the risk of head and neck cancer (HNC). We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of the epidemiological studies to investigate whether the intake of specific carotenoids from dietary sources, as well as combined carotenoids, is associated with the risk of HNC according to cancer subsites. A comprehensive literature search of the Medline and Scopus databases was conducted. Sixteen articles were identified from the literature search, of which 15 were case-control studies and one prospective cohort study. The risk reduction associated with β-carotene equivalents intake was 46% (95% CI, 20%-63%) for cancer of oral cavity and 57% (95% CI, 23%-76%) for laryngeal cancer. Lycopene and β-cryptoxanthin also reduced the risk for laryngeal cancer; the ORs for the highest category compared with the lowest one of carotenoid intake were 50% (95% CI, 11%-72%) and 59% (95% CI, 49%-67%), respectively. Lycopene, α-carotene, and β-cryptoxanthin were associated with at least 26% reduction in the rate of oral and pharyngeal cancer (95% CI, 2%-44%). Our systematic review and meta-analysis on dietary carotenoids intake and HNC showed carotenoids to act protectively against HNC, in relation to most of single nutrients and subsites.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Carotenoids / therapeutic use*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Global Health
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Morbidity / trends
  • Risk Factors


  • Antioxidants
  • Carotenoids