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Molecules. 2012 Mar 14;17(3):3202-42. doi: 10.3390/molecules17033202.

Cancer chemoprevention by carotenoids.

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  • 1Tohkai Cytopathology Institute, Cancer Research and Prevention-TCI-CaRP, 5-1-2 Minami-Uzura, Gifu 500-8285, Japan.


Carotenoids are natural fat-soluble pigments that provide bright coloration to plants and animals. Dietary intake of carotenoids is inversely associated with the risk of a variety of cancers in different tissues. Preclinical studies have shown that some carotenoids have potent antitumor effects both in vitro and in vivo, suggesting potential preventive and/or therapeutic roles for the compounds. Since chemoprevention is one of the most important strategies in the control of cancer development, molecular mechanism-based cancer chemoprevention using carotenoids seems to be an attractive approach. Various carotenoids, such as β-carotene, a-carotene, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, β-cryptoxanthin, fucoxanthin, canthaxanthin and astaxanthin, have been proven to have anti-carcinogenic activity in several tissues, although high doses of β-carotene failed to exhibit chemopreventive activity in clinical trials. In this review, cancer prevention using carotenoids are reviewed and the possible mechanisms of action are described.

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