Carotenoids and their role in cancer prevention

Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Cell Biol Lipids. 2020 Nov;1865(11):158613. doi: 10.1016/j.bbalip.2020.158613. Epub 2020 Jan 11.


Approximately two of every five people will develop cancer in their lifetime. Dietary modifications are one of the most promising lifestyle changes that can adjust the risk of developing cancer by nearly 40%. Carotenoids are a diverse group of natural pigments and are present in many fruits and vegetables. The data surrounding carotenoids and their potential roles in carcinogenesis have been rapidly growing over the past two decades. This review summarizes the literature surrounding the associations between the most six common carotenoids in the diet and ten of the most commonly diagnosed cancers. In this study, preclinical, epidemiological, and toxicology data were reviewed. Data from these studies suggest that several carotenoids might provide a beneficial impact on reducing carcinogenesis. Further studies are needed to determine the causal relationships between individual carotenoids and cancer incidence and progression. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Carotenoids recent advances in cell and molecular biology edited by Johannes von Lintig and Loredana Quadro.

Keywords: Beta-carotene; Cancer; Carotenoids; Epidemiology; Lycopene; Prevention.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Carotenoids / metabolism
  • Carotenoids / therapeutic use*
  • Diet
  • Fruit / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / diet therapy*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Vegetables / metabolism


  • Antioxidants
  • Carotenoids