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Got a light? This carrot keeps going out.

Got a light? This carrot keeps going out

Smoking cigarettes, chewing tobacco and consuming alcohol constitute major risk factors for head and neck cancers -- an association that explains, in part, the rising incidence of these cancers in U.S. women. But many people -- men and women alike -- find it impossible to eliminate these elements from their lives; even patients who develop these cancers often continue to smoke and drink. New research suggests that life would be better if society considered it cool to hang out with a carrot, rather than a cigarette, dangling from one's mouth.

Previous studies have shown that vitamin A and some of its synthetic derivatives can reverse a condition called leukoplakia, which appears as precancerous white spots in the mouth. But these fat-soluble compounds can be toxic at the levels required to do their work. Harinder Garewal of the University of Arizona in Tucson reports that a pilot study of 25 patients shows that beta-carotene - a vitamin A relative occurring naturally in carrots and green leafy vegetables -- reversed premalignant leukoplakia in more than 75 percent of the patients without producing toxic side effects.

Leukoplakia returned in patients who discontinued the dietary supplement -- consisting of a single 30-milligram capsule per day, equivalent to the amount of beta-carotene in about six carrots. Garewal says a planned larger trial may show that the inexpensive supplement can play an important public health role, especially in parts of the world where nutrition is already poor and oral care is lacking.

Cancers of the head and neck, including those of the lips, tongue, mouth and voice box, kill 10,000 to 15,000 people each year in the United States and constitute an even more serious problem in other parts of the world. Garewal notes that prevention strategies are especially valuable for these cancers, because their location often makes treatment difficult and surgery can leave the patients seriously disfigured or unable to speak.
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Title Annotation:health aspects of smoking and carrots; from the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology
Author:Weiss, Rick
Publication:Science News
Date:Jun 3, 1989
Words:321
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