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Mol Aspects Med. 2003 Dec;24(6):353-62.

Prooxidant effects of beta-carotene in cultured cells.

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Institute of General Pathology, Catholic University, L go F. Vito 1, 00168 Rome, Italy.


There is a growing body of interest on the role of beta-carotene and other carotenoids in human chronic diseases, including cancer. While epidemiological evidence shows that people who ingest more dietary carotenoids exhibit a reduced risk for cancer, results from intervention trials indicate that supplemental beta-carotene enhances lung cancer incidence and mortality among smokers. A possible mechanism which can explain the dual role of beta-carotene as both a beneficial and a harmful agent in cancer as well as in other chronic diseases is its ability in modulating intracellular redox status. beta-Carotene may serve as an antioxidant or as a prooxidant, depending on its intrinsic properties as well as on the redox potential of the biological environment in which it acts. This review summarizes the available evidence for a prooxidant activity of beta-carotene in cultured cells, focusing on biochemical and molecular markers of oxidative stress, which have been reported to be enhanced by the carotenoid.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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