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  • 2009

High dietary antioxidant intakes may protect against DNA damage in airline pilots

Published on

09 November 2009

High combined intakes of vitamin C and vitamin E, beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin from food may decrease the frequency of chromosome damage in ionizing radiation-exposed persons, a new study reports.

The study examined the association between the frequency of chromosome translocations, as a biomarker of cumulative DNA damage, and intakes of vitamins C and E and carotenoids in 82 male airline pilots (1). The results showed that high dietary antioxidant intakes were associated with a significant decrease in DNA damage induced by ionizing radiation (IR), a cause of cancer.

The intake of antioxidants, which can neutralize reactive oxygen species (ROS) generated endogenously or exogenously, has been extensively investigated in relation to DNA damage and cancer risk. Ionizing radiation (IR) is an established human cancer factor and an efficient inducer of chromosome abnormalities, which have also been shown to be associated with increased cancer risk in prospective studies. Airline pilots are exposed to elevated levels of cosmic IR.

During past decades, numerous animal or in vitro studies have suggested that antioxidants may provide protection against several forms of DNA damage induced by IR. To date, human data supporting these associations are limited. Of the dietary antioxidants, vitamins C and E and beta-carotene have been the focus of most research.


  1. Young LC et al. High dietary antioxidant intakes are associated with decreased chromosome translocation frequency in airline pilots. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009; 90:1402–10.

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