Potent preventive action of alpha-carotene against carcinogenesis: spontaneous liver carcinogenesis and promoting stage of lung and skin carcinogenesis in mice are suppressed more effectively by alpha-carotene than by beta-carotene.
Cancer Res. 1992 Dec 1 ;52(23):6583-7. PMID: 1423303
Although beta-carotene has been considered to be a key cancer preventive agent in green and yellow vegetables, other types of carotenoids, such as alpha-carotene, may also contribute to anticarcinogenic action, since these carotenoids usually coexist with beta-carotene and are detectable in human blood and tissues. In this study, we compared the inhibitory effect of natural alpha-carotene, obtained from palm oil, with that of beta-carotene on spontaneous liver carcinogenesis in C3H/He male mice. The mean number of hepatomas per mouse was significantly decreased by alpha-carotene supplementation (per os administration in drinking water at a concentration of 0.05%, ad libitum) as compared with that in the control group (P<0.001, Student's t test). On the other hand, beta-carotene, at the same dose as alpha-carotene, did not show any such significant difference from the control group. Furthermore, we also compared the antitumor-promoting activity of alpha-carotene with that of beta-carotene against two-stage mouse lung carcinogenesis (initiator, 4-nitroquinoline 1-oxide; promoter, glycerol). alpha-Carotene, but not beta-carotene, reduced the number of lung tumors per mouse to about 30% of that in the control group (P<0.001, Student's t test). The higher potency of the antitumor-promoting action of alpha-carotene compared to beta-carotene was confirmed in other experimental systems; e.g., alpha-carotene was also found to have a stronger effect than beta-carotene in suppressing the promoting activity of 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate on skin carcinogenesis in 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene-initiated mice. These results suggest that not only beta-carotene, but also other types of carotenoids, such as alpha-carotene, may play an important role in cancer prevention.