Beta-Carotene and Lung Cancer

Is there a connection between Beta-Carotene and lung cancer?

What is Beta-Carotene?

Beta-carotene is a naturally occurring compound that belongs to the group of carotenoids, which are pigments responsible for the vibrant colors seen in fruits and vegetables. It is a precursor of vitamin A and is commonly found in orange-colored fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and apricots. [1]

What is Beta-Carotene?

What is the Relationship between Lung Cancer and Beta-Carotene?

Observational studies have indicated a decrease in lung cancer mortality in individuals with higher levels of beta-carotene in their blood, but clinical trials have produced conflicting results.

Two significant trials, namely CARET and ATBC, found that beta-carotene supplementation increased the incidence of lung cancer in heavy smokers. These unexpected findings raised concerns about the safety and effectiveness of beta-carotene supplements, particularly in high-risk populations.

Further investigations have explored the potential influence of factors such as dose, duration, and source of beta-carotene supplementation. Studies have shown that beta-carotene supplementation alone may not be beneficial and could even have adverse effects.

The increased risk of lung cancer associated with beta-carotene supplements is primarily observed in heavy smokers, emphasizing the need for caution in this specific population.

Beta-carotene intake from dietary sources is generally considered safe and beneficial for individuals who do not smoke or have a lower risk of lung cancer.

Consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, which naturally contain beta-carotene and other carotenoids, has been associated with a decreased risk of various cancers, including lung cancer. 

What are the Symptoms of Lung Cancer?

What are the Symptoms of Lung Cancer?

What Does the Research Say About Beta-Carotene and Lung Cancer?

Studies conducted in the 1990s on beta-carotene and vitamin A were halted prematurely after it was found that the supplements did not prevent lung cancer and actually increased the risk of developing lung cancer in individuals already at high risk. Subsequent studies have provided sufficient evidence for physicians to advise smokers to refrain from taking beta-carotene supplements. [2]

One such study, known as the Beta-Carotene and Retinol Efficacy Trial (CARET), found that high-dose beta-carotene supplementation was associated with an increased risk of lung cancer among heavy smokers. This result led to further investigation.

In the Beta-Carotene and Retinol Efficacy Trial (CARET), researchers randomly assigned over 18,000 participants, including heavy smokers and asbestos-exposed workers, to receive either beta-carotene and retinol supplementation or a placebo.

The study was terminated early when it was discovered that the group receiving beta-carotene had a higher incidence of lung cancer compared to the placebo group.

Another trial, called the Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study, also reported similar findings. The study involved over 29,000 male smokers, who were randomly assigned to receive either beta-carotene supplements or a placebo. The researchers found that the beta-carotene group had a higher incidence of lung cancer and an increased risk of lung cancer death. [3]

These results raised concerns about the safety and effectiveness of beta-carotene supplementation, particularly for smokers. Subsequent observational studies further supported this link between beta-carotene intake, especially in supplement form, and an increased risk of lung cancer.

Beta-carotene obtained through dietary sources, such as fruits and vegetables, does not appear to have the same adverse effects. Some observational studies have shown that dietary beta-carotene may even have a protective effect against lung cancer.

Another study of 18,000 people found 28% more lung cancers in people with a history of smoking and/or asbestos exposure. [4]

What Should You Do if Taking Beta-Carotene Supplements?

What Should You Do if Taking Beta-Carotene Supplements?

What is the Treatment for Lung Cancer from Beta-Carotene

Lung cancer is a complex disease that requires a comprehensive approach to treatment. Depending on the stage and type of lung cancer, treatment options may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, or a combination of these modalities.

While beta-carotene may offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that it can be used as an effective standalone treatment for lung cancer.

It is important to note that lung cancer treatment is best when guided by medical professionals who specialize in oncology. They will take into consideration various factors such as the stage and type of cancer, overall health, and individual circumstances of the patient to create a personalized treatment plan.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle can play a supportive role in lung cancer treatment. This includes maintaining a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, including those that are natural sources of beta-carotene, as part of an overall nutritious meal plan. 

Patients undergoing lung cancer treatment should always consult with their healthcare providers before starting any dietary supplements, including beta-carotene. They will be able to provide personalized guidance based on the individual’s specific medical history, current treatment plan, and overall health status.

What is the Treatment for Lung Cancer from Beta-Carotene

Are you or someone you know battling lung cancer after using beta-carotene supplements?

Contact Goldberg & Loren’s personal injury lawyers today. Let us guide you through this journey and help you explore all the options available to you.


[1] Beta-Carotene. (2023, March 24). Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

[2] Antioxidants: Lung Cancer’s Friend or Foe? (n.d.).

[3] The Effect of Vitamin E and Beta Carotene on the Incidence of Lung Cancer and Other Cancers in Male Smokers. (1994, April 14). The New England Journal of Medicine; Massachusetts Medical Society.

[4] Beta Carotene (Oral Route). (2023, September 27).

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