• Reason why Beta Carotene reported to increase risk for Lung Cancer

    Posted September 8, 2012: by Bill Sardi

    Recall the data claiming beta carotene should not be consumed by smokers because of a slight increased risk for lung cancer.

    Here in the study below we get a clearer picture where vitamin D is protective against lung cancer but beta carotene, the precursor to vitamin A, then results in a diminishment of that effect. So it would only be high-dose beta carotene that would pose this problem. Initially, the smoker/beta carotene lung cancer problem was identified among smokers in Finland, a country at a northern latitude where vitamin D levels would be low.

    Cancer Causes Control. 2012 Sep;23(9):1557-65. Epub 2012 Jul 25.

    Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D, vitamin A, and lung cancer mortality in the US population: a potential nutrient-nutrient interaction.

    Cheng TY, Neuhouser ML.


    Public Health Sciences Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, 1100 Fairview Avenue North, M4B402, Seattle, WA, 98109-1024, USA, tcheng@fhcrc.org.



    Excess vitamin A may interrupt vitamin D-mediated transcription of target genes. This study investigated whether serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] concentrations were associated with lung cancer mortality, and whether this association varied by excess circulating vitamin A and vitamin A/β-carotene supplement use.


    We analyzed 16,693 men and women in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), 1988-1994. Lung cancer mortality (n = 258, 104 were former smokers and 23 were never smokers) were identified through National Death Index as of 2006. Serum 25(OH)D was measured by a radioimmunoassay. Vitamin A biomarkers including serum retinol, β-carotene, and retinyl esters were measured by HPLC. Supplement use for the past month was obtained by self-report. Multivariate-adjusted hazard ratios (HR) were estimated by Cox proportional hazard models.


    There was no association of serum 25(OH)D with overall lung cancer mortality. Among nonsmokers, ≥44 vs. <44 nmol/L of serum 25(OH)D was associated with a decreased risk (HR = 0.53, 95 % CI = 0.31-0.92, former/never smokers and HR = 0.31, 95 % CI = 0.13-0.77, distant-former [quit ≥20 years]/never smokers). The associations were not observed among participants with excess circulating vitamin A (serum retinyl esters ≥7.0 μg/dL or the ratio of retinyl esters to retinol ≥0.08) or vitamin A/β-carotene supplement users. However, statistical evidence to support effect modification of vitamin A was less clear.


    Serum 25(OH)D concentrations were inversely associated with lung cancer mortality in nonsmokers. The beneficial association was diminished among those with excess circulating vitamin A or vitamin A/β-carotene supplement users.

    PMID: 22829430

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.