Beta Carotene Supplements May Increase Lung Cancer Risk

Published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, a new 10-year analysis of more than 77,000 adults, men and women ages 50 to 76, revealed long term use of high-dose beta carotene supplements may heighten the risk of lung cancer, especially in smokers. Scientists used questionnaires to assess participants’ intake of dietary supplements and then tracked them for the next four years. These findings mirror a 2007 study showing vitamin C and E and folate supplements do not decrease the risk of lung cancer; ScienceDaily explains.

According to Dr. Fuhrman high-dose beta carotene supplements interfere with the absorption of antioxidants, like carotenoids and other antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables. This can increase cancer-risk. That’s why Dr. Fuhrman’s formulates his vitamins without beta carotene.

But getting beta carotene from veggies is just fine! Foods like carrots, mangos and oranges, as well as leafy greens like cabbage, Bok Choy and broccoli are loaded with beta carotene and other health-protecting antioxidants and phytochemicals.

Vitamins aren’t magic pills! Previous reports show vitamins alone can’t prevent heart disease or prostate cancer, i.e. a bacon cheese burger with a side of Centrum Silver isn’t healthy.

Image credit: Teresa Stanton

Trackbacks (0) Links to blogs that reference this article Trackback URL
Comments (9) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Dan - March 5, 2009 9:37 AM

I don't understand. The article says that fruits and veggies are high in beta carotene, but do these also increase the risk of lung cancer or does the warning only apply to SUPPLEMENTS?

Gerry Pugliese - March 5, 2009 10:16 AM

Hey Dan-

Good question. Simple answer. High-dose isolated beta-carotene increases cancer risk, from

"Avoid taking supplements containing these ingredients: vitamin A, high dose (200 IUs or greater) isolated Vitamin E, beta carotene, copper and iron."


You'll be good with veggies. :)


Marge - March 5, 2009 12:08 PM

Now this is very upsetting,My husband had colon cancer last yeatr and we were told to juice carrots and now you are telling us Not to,,well you are damed if you do and damed if you don't, well they way things are going it looks like we might die by the hands of a robber trying to feed there familys..God Bless and Save America..

Gerry Pugliese - March 5, 2009 12:20 PM

Hey Marge-

I think you misread. No one's telling you not to eat carrots. Its the high dose in vitamins being examined here.


HappyCat - March 5, 2009 6:40 PM

This happened to my father. He got macular degeneration, so I got him to take the high dose vitamins that are recommended for it, and they have beta carotene. His eyesight got better but he died of lung cancer within the year. We had no idea he had cancer. I did ask him to eat greens and orange veggies every day, but you know how it is. He'd stopped smoking 7 years before, but he had smoked for 60 years.

Better to get your carotenoids from food, where you get a full spectrum of them, and other phytonutrients occur with them.

Sara - March 5, 2009 11:31 PM

To clarify, veggies have mixed carotoids not isolated beta carotene. It's the over supply of one kind of carotoid -beta- to the exclusion of the many others that is the problem.

Jordan - March 6, 2009 6:11 PM

I'm not surprised that supplements don't prevent or treat cancer or heart disease. But is that really the issue? My understanding is that supplements are for preventing deficiencies, not curing cancer. Of course, if some people believe that they can do the latter, that's an issue. But it seems that supplements are being slammed as worthless because they can't cure cancer. That's not really their purpose, in my opinion.

I take a multi, as well as Vit. D, K, iodine, and a few others because I'm not sure if I get all those nutrients in sufficient quantities in my diet. Of course getting nutrients from food is best, but I want to be extra careful to cover the bases, so to speak. That seems prudent, and the fact that they can't cure cancer won't dissuade me from taking them. OK, rant over. :-)

Sara - March 7, 2009 6:58 PM

The issue is not taking modest amounts of vitamins, etc to assure adequacy. It is taking large amount of single vitamins or other supplements in the very hope it will prevent or cure disease such as cancer. Like mega-doses of beta-carotene or vitamin E.

Jordan - March 8, 2009 8:12 PM

That was exactly my point. Thanks for agreeing with me! :-)

Post A Comment / Question Use this form to add a comment to this entry.

Remember personal info?