Lung cancer cases diagnosed during the period 1975 through 1993 and matched controls were identified in the rosters of Washington County, Maryland residents who had donated blood for a serum bank in 1974 or 1989. Plasma from participants in the 1989 project was assayed for ascorbic acid; serum or plasma was assayed for participants in either project for alpha- and beta-carotene, cryptoxanthin, lutein/zeaxanthin, lycopene, alpha-tocopherol, selenium, and peroxyl radical absorption capacity. Among the total group of 258 cases and 515 controls, serum/plasma concentrations were significantly lower among cases than controls for cryptoxanthin, beta-carotene, and lutein/zeaxanthin with case-control differences of -25.5, -17.1, and -10.1%, respectively. Modest nonsignificant case-control differences in a protective direction were noted for alpha-carotene and ascorbic acid. There were only trivial differences for lycopene, alpha-tocopherol, selenium, and peroxyl radical absorption capacity. Findings are reported for males and females and for persons who had never smoked cigarettes, former smokers, and current smokers at baseline. These results and those from previous studies suggest that beta-carotene is a marker for some protective factor(s) against lung cancer; that cryptoxanthin, alpha-carotene, and ascorbic acid need to be investigated further as potentially protective factors or associates of a protective factor; and that lycopene, alpha-tocopherol, selenium, and peroxyl radical absorption capacity are unlikely to be associated with lung cancer risk. Until specific preventive factors are identified, the best protection against lung cancer is still the avoidance of airborne carcinogens, especially tobacco smoke; second best is the consumption of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

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