Precancerous lesions in the mouth may regress when patients are given betacarotene, says a new study.

In a recent multicentre, double blind, placebo controlled trial, 54 subjects were given 60 mg of beta carotene daily. After six months, 26 (52 per cent) were shown to have a clinical response.

These responders were then randomised into either beta carotene or placebo groups for further monitoring over a period of 12 months.

Interestingly, responders had a lower intake of dietary fibre, fruits, folate and vitamin E supplements than did non responders.

During the study, the rates of relapse were similar for both groups: 18 per cent for those who’d taken beta carotene versus 17 per cent in the placebo group, suggesting that the treatment must be kept up.

Biopsies performed initially in all patients found that dysplasia (abnormal cells) were present in 38 per cent of the subjects. Of these, there was an improvement after supplementation of at least one grade of dysplasia in 39 per cent and no change in 61 per cent (Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg, 1999; 125: 1305-10).

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Written by What Doctors Don't Tell You

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