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  • Fruits, Vegetables and Carotenoids

    Fruits and vegetables

    Findings from individual studies on fruits and vegetables and breast cancer risk have been mixed [97-101]. Recent, large pooled and meta-analyses have provided better data.

    Studies now show that eating vegetables may slightly lower the risk of some breast cancers. A pooled analysis that combined data from 20 studies found that eating vegetables lowered the risk of estrogen receptor-negative breast cancers, but not estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers [101].

    Eating fruits may also help lower breast cancer risk. A meta-analysis that combined the results of 15 studies found that women who ate the most fruit had a slightly lower risk of breast cancer compared to women who ate the least fruit [100].

    Although the effects on breast cancer risk are modest, eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables may lower the risk of heart disease, stroke and other chronic diseases [102-104].

    Learn more about healthy behaviors and breast cancer risk

    For a summary of research studies on fruits and vegetables and breast cancer, visit the Breast Cancer Research Studies section.

    Carotenoids

    Carotenoids are natural orange-red food pigments found in fruits and vegetables (like melons, carrots, sweet potatoes and squash). Many carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, are antioxidants and can be converted into vitamin A in the body.

    Researchers can study carotenoids by measuring levels of carotenoids in the blood or through a person’s diet.

    Studies of blood levels of carotenoids

    A pooled analysis of data from eight studies found that women with higher blood levels of carotenoids had a reduced risk of breast cancer compared to women with lower levels [105].

    Studies of dietary intake of carotenoids

    Many studies have shown no link between eating a diet high in foods that contain carotenoids and overall breast cancer risk [106-107].

    However, carotenoids appear to lower the risk of certain breast cancers [107-108]. A pooled analysis of data from over one million women in 18 studies found that a diet high in carotenoids was linked to a decreased risk of estrogen receptor-negative breast cancers [109]. However, there was no benefit for estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers [109].

     

    For a summary of research studies on carotenoids and breast cancer survival, visit the Breast Cancer Research Studies section.

    Note of caution on carotenoid supplements

    Carotenoid supplements (such as beta-carotene supplements) may have some health risks. A few studies have found that taking a daily beta-carotene supplement (in pill form) may increase the risk of lung cancer and premature death in smokers [110-112].

    In general, fruits and vegetables are the best sources of carotenoids (rather than supplements) and are part of a healthy diet.  

    Updated 11/06/14

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