Will Higher Carotenoid Levels Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer?

A new study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute concluded that women with higher circulating carotenoid levels are at a reduced risk of breast cancer.  Carotenoids are micronutrients found in fruits and vegetables and have previously been found to have anticarcinogenic properties because they inhibit the tumor progression and reduce proliferation of estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) and estrogen receptor-negative (ER-) breast cancers. However, in these studies the specific carotenoid differed across multiple studies.

To evaluate the association between specific carotenoids and breast cancer the researchers conducted a pooled analysis of eight cohort studies that gathered over 80% of the worlds published prospective data on plasma or serum carotenoids and breast cancer. In the pooled data there were 3,055 subjects and 3,956 matched controls. The carotenoid levels of participants were re-calibrated to a common standard to explain laboratory differences as well as to examine the differences across populations.

Researchers found that in over 3,000 subjects, there were statistically significant inverse associations between circulating levels of individual and total carotrenoids and breast cancer risk, with a stronger finding in ER- breast cancers. The researchers said  ” The inverse associations we observed among ER- tumors highlight carotenoids as one of the first modifiable risk factors for this poor prognosis tumor type.” Further they say “A diet high in carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables offers many health benefits, including a possible reduced risk of breast cancer. “

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