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Lutein Studies and Skin Health

Several studies in the past few years have reported anti-cancer effect of several carotenoids and tocopherols. Here are brief synopses of the studies linking lutein to skin cancer.

UltraClear 20 a holistic herbal supplement for eye health, contains lutein.

Major Findings

· Lutein may protect skin against UV-A or UV-B oxidation stress.
· Lutein and zeaxanthin have been detected in facial, cervical/ovarian and bucal mucosal tissues.

1999: Dr. Greenway from the Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, Calif. and collaborators examined the carotenoid composition of normal skin samples removed from six patients with sun damaged skins during reconstruction surgery (1).

1998: T. Wingerath and coworkers examined human skin for the presence of carotenol fatty acid esters (2).

1998: O'Connor and O'Brien, at University College, Cork, Ireland, exposed rat-kidney fibroblasts to UV-A light (3).

1998: At the Centre of Pharmacognosy, University of London, Taylor and Evans investigated the anti-inflammatory activity of lutein in chemically and physically induced erythema in rat skins (4).

1995: At the University of Arizona, Dr. Peng and collaborators correlated carotenoid concentrations in plasma and human skin (5).

1993: Dr. Peng and coworkers from the University of Arizona developed a method to measure carotenoids, retinoids and tocopherols in human tissue (6).


High concentrations of carotenoids, including lutein, were evident in the skin samples. Interestingly, one of the patients had significantly higher concentrations of lutein in skin from the nose. Carotenoids, such as lutein may contribute to protection against exposure to UV light.

Upon examination of human skin, these researchers demonstrated that carotenol esters are present in human skin and that they may be formed by esterification of xanthophylls after absorption.

Their results showed that lutein, (3-carotene and astaxanthin were effective in protecting cells against UV-A oxidative stress in vitro. Astaxanthin provided the best protection.

The addition of 5 Egg of lutein to the skin, after the application of the chemical irritant, inhibited 50 percent of erythema formation. Furthermore, a 52 percent reduction of epidermal cell layers was observed after applying lutein (100 ~tg/day) to UV-B-treated skin. UV-B light induces hype rproliferation of epidermal cell, which is characteristic of UV-B dermatitis.

The results from these studies showed a significant correlation of carotenoid, retinoids and tocopherol concentrations in the plasma and bucal mucosal cells (BMC) and in plasma and skin. Furthermore, these researchers also found significantly lower carotenoid (lutein, zeaxanthin, crytoxanthin and cis-(b-carotene) concentrations in plasma, BMC and skin in smokers than in the non-smokers.

Traditional saponification methods often destroy some of the micronutrients present in the skin. Using a nonsaponification procedure, these researchers were able to quantify lutein, lycopene, a-carotene, P-carotene, retinol, retinyl palmitate, a-tocopherol, and y-tocopherol in facial skin and cervical/ovarian tissues.


1. Greenway H.T., et al. (1999). Skin tissue levels of carotenoids, vitamin A and antioxidants in photo damaged skin. Scripps Clinic, La Jolla, CA.

2. Wingerath, T., et al. (1998). Xanthophyll esters in human skin. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics. July, 355(2):271-274.

3. O'Connor, I. and O'Brien, N. (1998). Modulation of UVA light-induced oxidative stress by (3carotene, lutein and astaxanthin in cultured fibroblasts. Journal of Dermatological Science 16:226230.

4. Taylor, E/J. and Evans, F.J. (1998). Anti-psoriatic action of lutein demonstrated by inhibition of rat photodermatitis. J. Pharm. Pharmacol. 50 (supplement): 78.

5. Peng, Y-M., et al. (1995). Concentrations and plasma-tissue-diet relationships of carotenoids, retinoids, and Tocopherols in Humans. Nutrition and Cancer 23(3):233-246.

6. Peng, Y-M., et al. (1993). A nonsaponification method for the determination of carotenoids, retinoids, and tocopherols in solid human tissues. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. March-April, Vol.2: 139-144.

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