Research: MENETTA and colleagues, D

Listed in Issue 21


MENETTA and colleagues, Division of Gynecological Oncology, University of California, Irvine 92668 USA write that the Papanicolaou (Pap) smears for cervical cancer screening have led to the increased detection of preinvasive conditions of the cervix, cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) and that epidemiological research has demonstrated an association between low dietary levels of beta-carotene and CIN. The authors conducted a Phase II study to explore the effect of dietary beta-carotene upon CIN I and II.



30 patients with documented CIN I or II received 30 mg daily of beta-carotene for 6 months. Response rates were assessed at 0, 3, 6, and 12 months using cytology, colposcopy and/or biopsies and beta-carotene and vitamin E levels in vaginal mucosa cells and serum were measured at the same time intervals. RESULTS: Response rates were 18 of 30 (60%), 21 of 30 (70%) and 10 of 30 (33%) at 3, 6 and 12 months respectively. There were significant changes in serum beta-carotene levels compared to a baseline median levels of 111mg/ml, median levels at 3 and 6 months were over 2200 mg/ml, vaginal mucosal levels of beta- carotene also significantly increased and there was a significant correlation between serum and vaginal beta-carotene levels.



The results indicate that a large percentage of patients with CIN I and II respond clinically to dietary beta-carotene supplementation. The positive relationship between serum and tissue levels of beta-carotene suggests that serum levels can be used to monitor beta-carotene levels. As a result of these positive results, prospective randomised studies are ongoing which compare the efficacy of beta-carotene against an untreated control.


Manetta A et al. Beta-carotene treatment of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia: a phase II study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 5(11): 929-32. Nov 1996.


I sincerely hope that the ongoing prospective trials will be for a relatively short period. Although I recognise the need to know for sure if a treatment works, I for one would not want to be in the control untreated arm of that trial. I would much prefer to take dietary beta-carotene, just in case.

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