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Cancer Lett. 1988 May;40(1):93-101.

Response of oral leukoplakias to the administration of vitamin A.

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Environmental Carcinogenesis Unit, British Columbia Cancer Research Centre, Vancouver, Canada.


Tobacco/betel nut chewers (Kerala, India) with well-developed oral leukoplakias were chosen for a short-term intervention trial of vitamin A therapy. Participants were randomly distributed into two groups, one receiving 200,000 IU vitamin A per week (0.14 mg/kg body wt/per day) for 6 months, and the other receiving placebo capsules. Their cancer-causing habit, which can be quantitated (an average of 13.1 betel quids/day, 26.1 min/quid), did not change during the trial period. The 6-month oral administration of vitamin A caused complete remission in 57.1% of participants, and a total suppression of the development of new leukoplakias in all chewers receiving vitamin A (n = 21), as compared to 3% and 21%, respectively, in the placebo group (n = 33). The results were substantiated by examining the histological and cytological changes on small biopsies which were taken at the onset and at the completion of the trial period. Over the 6-month period of vitamin A administration, the number of layers of spinous cells decreased in 85% of the participants, the loss of polarity of basal cells was reduced from 72.2% to 22.2% of chewers, subepidermal lymphocytic infiltration was greatly diminished from 66.7% to 5.5% of chewers, and nuclei with condensed chromatin disappeared from the epidermal layer (72.2% before to 0% at the end of the trial).

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