While high intakes of beta-carotene seem to decrease the risk of tobacco-related cancers among people who've never smoked, latest research findings from INSERM in France suggest that this risk may increase for current and past smokers who consume beta carotene supplements.
Although the findings are based on a study of women, researchers believe that similar results would be obtained in men.
The study, which is reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, involved an evaluation of beta-carotene intake for nearly 60, 000 women who were followed for about 7 years to assess cancer occurrence. During follow-up, 700 women developed tobacco-related cancers, such as lung cancer or head and neck cancer.
Among never smokers, consuming a diet containing moderate amounts of beta-carotene cut the risk of cancer by up to 28 percent. Taking beta-carotene supplements reduced the risk by 56 percent.A different effect was seen in current or past smokers. In this group, consuming a diet containing moderate amounts of beta-carotene increased the risk of cancer by up to 43 percent. Taking beta-carotene supplements more than doubled the risk of cancer.
This study did not look at the reasons why beta-carotene can seemingly protect non-smokers but increase the cancer risk in smokers.
While researchers suggest that further studies are needed to examine the relationship between beta-carotene supplements and cancer risk in smokers, they do not believe that former or current smokers should be concerned about beta-carotene consumption from their diets.
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