Beta-carotene, a natural product found in green plants, can be used as a protective measure to lessen symptoms of photosensitivity. In the treatment of EPP, it functions to neutralize the reactive chemical compounds formed by protoporphyrin. Interestingly, beta- carotene and other related carotenoid pigments function in plants in a similar fashion by neutralizing the reactive compounds formed by the plants' own chlorophyll.
Beta-carotene is the most effective therapy to date for EPP. According to Dr. Micheline Mathews-Roth, EPP expert from Harvard University, it is important for EPP patients to ingest the proper formulation of beta-carotene to obtain its greatest beneficial effect. It is also important to make sure the preparation is made with pharmaceutical grade beta-carotene. The pharmaceutical grade formulation having the highest effective absorption is the "dry beta-carotene beadlets, 10%" made by Roche and distributed by Tishcon with the trade name, Lumitene. Lumitene can be ordered by calling 1-800-866-0978 or via their website www.epic4health.com.
Please also note that preparations using beta-carotene crystals dissolved in vegetable oil, or beta- carotene-containing algae preparations, or dry beadlets made by other manufacturers are not suitable for use in treating EPP, because these preparations are erratically absorbed by the body, and in the case of algae preparations may contain algal components which might act as photosensitizers. Most brands of over-the-counter beta-carotene use these less-effective preparations, or may mix Roche beadlets with others which are not as well-absorbed. This is why Dr. Roth urges EPP people to use only Lumitene and not purchase other brands of beta-carotene pills. These other brands may work well for cancer prevention but do not deliver the high absorption, and thus the high blood levels, needed for the effective treatment of EPP.
Lumitene/Beta-carotene is the most effective therapy to date for EPP: the following dosage schedule is recommended.
- For ages 1-4 years: 2-3 30 mg capsules per day
- For ages 4-8 years: 3-4 30 mg capsules per day
- For ages 8-12 years: 4-5 30 mg capsules per day
- For ages 12-16 years: 5-6 30 mg capsules per day
- For ages 16 and older: 6-10 30 mg capsules per day
There have been articles in the press about a National Academy of Sciences panel report on vitamin requirements, discouraging the overuse of supplements. Beta-carotene was mentioned, again talking about the finding reported several years ago that in certain people who were heavy smokers and also asbestos workers who were taking beta-carotene in a cancer-prevention study, there seemed to be in some cases an increase in lung cancer, but in another study, heavy smokers also taking beta-carotene in a cancer prevention study did not develop lung cancer.
Dr. Roth suggests that if you don't smoke, keep taking beta-carotene (Lumitene) if it helps you. If you do smoke and still want to take Lumitene, STOP SMOKING IMMEDIATELY! The studies found that people who stopped smoking did not develop excessive lung cancer. If a person does not stop smoking and continues to take Lumitene, that person is taking a chance of developing lung cancer.
For more information, please see the Healthcare Professionals section of this website.