As one of the most promising cancer chemopreventive agents, β-carotene has been studied extensively. However, other natural carotenoids have also suppressed tumorigenesis, and some are more potent than β-carotene. For example, α-carotene shows higher potency than β-carotene in suppressing tumorigenesis in mouse skin and lung models. In the two-stage mouse skin carcinogenesis model (initiator, 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene; promoter, 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate), topical application of α-carotene at a 200 nmol dose per painting twice a week significantly decreased the mean number of skin tumors per mouse. The greater potency of α-carotene over β-carotene in suppression of tumor promotion was confirmed in the two-stage mouse lung carcinogenesis model (initiator, 4-nitroquinoline-1-oxide; promoter, glycerol). Oral administration of α-carotene (0.05% in drinking water) singnificantly decreased the mean number of lung tumors per mouse. In contrast, β-carotene showed no suppression of lung tumor formation under the same experimental conditions. Fucoxanthin, a carotenoid as abundant in nature as β-carotene, was also found to have antitumorigenic activity in mouse skin and duodenum models. Thus, further studies on various natural carotenoids, other than β-carotene, should be carried out in the field of cancer chemoprevention.
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