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Beta-Carotene Can Cut Risk of Prostate Cancer

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Like other antioxidants, beta-carotene may prevent cancer-causing substances from damaging genetic material in cells. While this may be one explanation for its beneficial effect, Cook and colleagues write, the differing results of the various studies point to a need for more research with longer follow-up of patients receiving beta-carotene supplementation.

In an accompanying editorial, an Ohio researcher says the new study provides a foundation for further research into the role of various factors, including dietary antioxidants and family history, that converge to increase an individual's risk of cancer.

"What is clear is that no single study population or approach is adequate to provide a complete picture of the complex interactions between dietary antioxidants in foods," writes Steven K. Clinton, MD, PhD, of The Ohio State University in Columbus.

Clinton says physicians should exercise caution when advising patients about beta-carotene supplementation for cancer prevention, making certain to emphasize the importance of healthy dietary and lifestyle patterns coupled with effective detection. Tests used to detect prostate cancer include the rectal exam and the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 1999, nearly 180,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 37,000 will die.

Vital Information:

  • Men with low levels of beta-carotene may be able to reduce their risk of prostate cancer by taking supplements every other day.
  • Beta-carotene is an antioxidant found in many fruits and vegetables, including carrots, squash, yams, peaches, apricots, spinach, collard greens, mustard greens, and broccoli.
  • Trials supporting beta-carotene to prevent other types of cancer have been inconsistent, and more research is needed.
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