Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention (ATBC) Study

Lead Contact and/or Principal Investigator (PI):

  • Demetrius Albanes, M.D.
    Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG)
    National Cancer Institute (NCI)

Funded Since: 1985
Funding Source: NCI Intramural Program (DCEG)
Year(s) of Enrollment: 1985
Study Website:

The Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention (ATBC) Study was conducted in Finland as a joint project between the National Public Health Institute of Finland and the NCI. The overall design, rationale, objectives, and initial results of this intervention study have been published. Briefly, this was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, primary prevention trial to determine whether daily supplementation with alpha-tocopherol, beta-carotene, or both would reduce the incidence of lung or other cancers among male smokers.

A total of 29,133 men between the ages of 50 and 69 years, who smoked at least five cigarettes per day, were recruited from southwestern Finland between 1985 and 1988, and randomly assigned to one of four groups based on a 2x2 factorial design. Men who had prior cancer or serious illness or who reported current use of vitamins E (>20 mg/day), A (>20,000 IU/day), or beta-carotene (>6 mg/day) were ineligible. Participants received either alpha-tocopherol (50 mg/day) as dl-alpha-tocopheryl acetate, beta-carotene (20 mg/day) as all-trans-beta-carotene, both supplements, or placebo capsules for 5 to 8 years (median 6.1 years) until death or trial closure (April 30, 1993).

The study was approved by the institutional review boards of the NCI and the National Public Health Institute of Finland, and written informed consent was obtained from each participant before randomization. Post-intervention follow-up has continued through the Finnish Cancer Registry with data currently available through 2007. Analyses based on biospecimens and questionnaire data collected during the parent study are ongoing and focus on the roles of micronutrients, diet, energy balance and growth factors, genetic variants, and other factors in prostate, lung, pancreatic, colorectal, kidney, bladder, upper gastrointestinal, lymphatic, and other cancers.

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