Findings from individual studies on fruits and vegetables and breast cancer risk have been mixed [118-122]. Large pooled analyses and meta-analyses have provided better data.
Eating fruits may help lower breast cancer risk.
A meta-analysis that combined the results of 15 studies found women who ate the most fruit had a slightly lower risk of breast cancer compared to women who ate the least fruit .
Findings show eating vegetables may slightly lower the risk of some breast cancers .
A pooled analysis of data from 20 studies found women who ate the most vegetables had a lower risk of estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer (but not estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer) compared to women who ate the least vegetables .
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 [123-125].
Learn more about healthy behaviors and breast cancer risk.
One study suggested eating a lot of fruit during the teen years may lower breast cancer risk in adulthood . Eating a lot of vegetables did not appear to impact risk .
This topic is under study.
Learn more about early life exposures 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 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.
A pooled analysis of data from 8 studies found women with higher blood levels of carotenoids had a decreased risk of breast cancer compared to women with lower levels .
Many studies have shown no link between eating a diet high in foods that contain carotenoids and overall breast cancer risk [128-129].
However, carotenoids appear to lower the risk of certain breast cancers [129-130].
A pooled analysis of data from over 1 million women in 18 studies found eating a diet high in carotenoids was linked to a decreased risk of estrogen receptor-negative breast cancers .
However, there was no benefit for estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers .
For a summary of research studies on carotenoids and breast cancer survival, visit the Breast Cancer Research Studies section.
Carotenoid supplements (such as beta-carotene supplements) may have some health risks.
A few studies have found taking a daily beta-carotene supplement (in pill form) may increase the risk of lung cancer and early death in smokers [132-134].
In general, fruits and vegetables are the best sources of carotenoids (rather than supplements) and are part of a healthy diet.