The Who, What, Where, When and Sometimes, Why.

Fruits, Vegetables and Carotenoids

Fruits and Vegetables

Findings from individual studies on fruits and vegetables and breast cancer risk have been mixed [149-153]. Large pooled analyses and meta-analyses have provided better data.

Fruits

Eating fruits may help lower breast cancer risk [150].

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 [150].

Vegetables

Eating vegetables may slightly lower the risk of some breast cancers [151-153].  

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 [151].

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 [154-156].

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 eating a lot of fruit during the teen years may lower breast cancer risk in adulthood [157]. Eating a lot of vegetables did not appear to impact risk [157].

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

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 through a person’s diet.

Learn about carotenoids and survival after breast cancer treatment.

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 [158].

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 [159-160].

However, carotenoids appear to lower the risk of certain breast cancers [160-161].

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 [162]. However, there was no benefit for estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers [162].

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 (a pill) may increase the risk of lung cancer and early death in smokers [163-165].

Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of carotenoids (rather than supplements) and are part of a healthy diet. 

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