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Beta-carotene and vitamin D deficiencies may increase esophageal cancer risk

Published on

17 March 2014

People with low blood concentrations of beta-carotene and vitamin D may have an increased risk of developing esophageal cancer, reports a new study from China.

The case-control study measured the blood concentrations of beta-carotene and vitamin D of 100 patients with diagnosed esophageal cancer and compared them with the blood levels of 200 healthy participants (1). The study results showed that levels of both beta-carotene and vitamin D were significantly lower in those with esophageal cancer compared to the healthy group. The lower the blood concentrations were, the higher the cancer risk.

The scientists concluded that a sufficient intake of beta-carotene and vitamin D may contribute to the pre- vention of esophageal cancer. While overall study results are inconsistent, some trials have suggested that beta-carotene (2) and vitamin D (3) may each have their own protective effects against cancer. Due to its antioxidant properties beta-carotene may protect cells from oxidative damage while vitamin D is thought to prevent cancer cells from growing and spreading. In China, roughly 250,000 new esophageal cancer cases are diagnosed each year.


  1. Huang G. et al. Vitamin D3 and Beta-carotene Deficiency is Associated with Risk of Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma – Results of a Case-control Study in China. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2014; 15(2):819-823.
  2. Druesne-Pecollo N. et al. Beta-carotene supplementation and cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Int J Cancer. 2010; 127:172-184.
  3. Gilbert R. et al. Associations of circulating and dietary vitamin D with prostate cancer risk: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis. Cancer Causes Control. 2011; 22:319-340.

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