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At doses greater than 30 mg/day beta-carotene may cause an orange-yellow colouration of the skin (carotenodermia), which is usually seen first as yellowness of the palms and soles. This condition is harmless and reversible when intake ceases (Micozzi et al 1988). Carotenodermia is distinguished from jaundice by the absence of yellowed ocular sclerae. [For some people, this skin colouration is actually considered desirable (Mathews-Roth 1990b) and is utilised in tanning tablets to produce a natural-looking skin tan (DerMarderosian & Beutler 2002).]

At present it is unclear if there is a true link between increased lung cancer risk and long-term beta-carotene supplementation in smokers, because supplementation studies with synthetic beta-carotene have produced mixed results, with two studies finding an increased lung cancer risk with heavy smokers or those with high asbestos exposure (Group 1994, Heinonen et al 1994, Omenn et al 1996b) and other studies finding either no effect (Hennekens et al 1996, Lee et al 1999) or a protective effect (Blot et al 1993).

The association between increased lung cancer risk and beta-carotene has not been found with natural beta-carotene and there is no suggestion that heavy smokers should reduce their intake of beta-carotene rich foods. A review suggests that there is no evidence at present that consuming small amounts of supplemental beta-carotene in a multivitamin tablet at amounts that exist in foods (<6 mg) is unwise for any population (Pryor et al 2000).

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How To Quit Smoking

How To Quit Smoking

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