Increased carotenoid intakes may reduce the risk of esophageal cancer

February 1, 2014

A new review reports that higher intakes of beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin seem to contribute to the prevention of esophageal cancer.

The meta-analysis included the results of ten observational studies and case studies with a total of
6487 participants which estimated carotenoid intakes and documented cases of esophageal cancer (1). The analysis showed that participants with higher intakes of carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin, had a significantly reduced risk of developing esophageal cancer, compared to participants with low intakes. A subgroup analysis showed that beta-carotene could be preventive for esophageal adeno- carcinoma, while lycopene might help to protect from squamous cell cancer.

The scientists commented that further research and large sample studies need to be conducted to better clarify the potentially protective mechanism in carotenoids. Esophageal cancer is the eighth most common cancer worldwide, with about 17460 new cases per year in the US. Tobacco, alcohol and obesity have been established as strong risk factors for esophageal cancer. In addition, micronutrient deficiencies due to low intake of fruit and vegetables appear to be related to the risk of esophageal cancer in some parts of the world (2). It has been suggested that micronutrients with antioxidant properties, such as carotenoids, may reduce the effects of environmental carcinogens or may prevent DNA damage (3).


  1. Xiao-Xiao G. et al. Carotenoid Intake and Esophageal Cancer Risk: a Meta-analysis. Asian Pacific J Cancer Prev. 2013; 14(3):1911–1918.
  2. Glade M. J. Food, nutrition, and the prevention of cancer: a global perspective. American Institute for Cancer Research/World Cancer Research Fund, American Institute for Cancer Research. Nutrition. 1999; 15:523–526.
  3. Clarkson P. M. and Thompson H. S. Antioxidants: what role do they play in physical activity and health? Am J Clin Nutr. 2000; 72:637S–646S.