Fruits, Vegetables and Carotenoids
Fruits and Vegetables
Findings from individual studies on fruits and vegetables and breast cancer risk have been mixed [158-162]. Large pooled analyses and meta-analyses have provided better data.
Eating fruits may be linked to a lower risk of breast cancer .
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 .
Eating vegetables may be linked to a lower risk of some breast cancers [160-162].
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 .
Other health benefits of eating fruits and 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 [163-165].
Learn more about healthy behaviors and breast cancer risk.
Learn more about diet and breast cancer risk.
Eating fruits and vegetables during the teen years
One study suggested women who ate a lot of fruit during their teen years may have a decreased risk of breast cancer risk in adulthood . Eating a lot of vegetables during the teen years did not appear to be related to 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 (such as melons, carrots and sweet potatoes). 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 carotenoids in a person’s diet.
Studies of blood levels of carotenoids
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 .
Studies of dietary intake of carotenoids
Many studies show no link between eating a diet high in foods that contain carotenoids and overall breast cancer risk [168-169].
However, carotenoids appear to be linked to a lower risk of certain breast cancers [169-170].
A pooled analysis of data from 18 studies found eating a diet high in carotenoids was linked to a decreased risk of estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer (but not estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer) .
Learn more about diet and breast cancer.
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 taking a daily beta-carotene supplement may be linked to an increased risk of lung cancer and early death in smokers [173-174].
Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of carotenoids (rather than supplements) and are part of a healthy diet.