Carotenoids Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

beta-carotene helps prevent breast cancer

Breast cancer risk reduced with carotenoids.

New research published in the British Journal of Nutrition has found that women who eat more carotenoids have a significantly reduced risk of breast cancer.

The scientists studied 561 women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer along  with 561 healthy women who were matched for age and where they lived.

Each of the women were interviewed directly the the researchers and given a food frequency questionnaire.

The researchers used a quartile system – meaning they compared those whose consumption of carotenoids were in the highest 25 percent with those who were in the lowest 25 percent of carotenoid consumption.

The researchers found the highest quartile of beta-carotene dietary consumption had a 46 percent reduced incidence of breast cancer. Those who consumed the highest quarter of alpha-carotene in their diets had a 39 percent reduced risk of breast cancer. And those who consumed higher amounts of beta-cryptoxanthin within their diets had a 62 percent reduced risk of breast cancer. Furthermore, those who consumed more luteins and zeaxanthins resulted in 51 percent reduction in breast cancer risk.

A previous study confirms results

This result confirms another study done several years ago, after a study of 122 women with breast cancer along with 632 healthy women. This study found that greater lycopene consumption reduced breast cancer risk by 74 percent, beta-carotene reduced risk by 62 percent and greater beta-cryptoxanthin reduced breast cancer risk by 57 percent.

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This study also found that total carotenoid consumption reduced breast cancer risk by 63 percent.

What are Carotenoids?

Carotenoids are the color pigments in vegetables and some fruits.

Sources of beta-carotene include:

  • Carrots
  • Pumpkins
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Collard greens

Sources of alpha-carotene include:

  • Pumpkin
  • Squash
  • Green beans
  • Leafy greens

Sources of beta-cryptoxanthin include:

  • Peppers (hot or sweet)
  • Squash
  • Persimmons
  • Apples
  • Pumpkins
  • Carrots
  • Tangerines
  • Oranges
  • Papayas

Some sources of luteins and zeaxanthins:

  • Romaine
  • Broccoli
  • Corn
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Yellow carrots
  • Chard
  • Turnip greens
  • Peas
  • Goji berries

Greater protection among pre-menopausal women

While the protective capacity of these foods was across the board in terms of the above percentages, the researchers noted that even greater protection was provided by these foods to those women who were pre-menopausal.

This of course means it is better not to wait to long to start changing the diet.

Also, those women who were exposed to second hand smoke also had a greater amount of protection from breast cancer from the above carotinoid foods.

What is the mechanism?

One of the main reasons for this reduction is the fact that these carotenoids are significant free radical neutralizers. The bind to free radicals before they can seriously damage our tissues, and thus prevent that damage.

Furthermore, these free radical scavengers each collect different types of free radicals – namely some of those involved in lipid peroxidation.

Significant research has established that free radicals play a critical role in tumor creation and production, along with cardiovascular disease.

It should be noted that men also get breast cancer.

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Wang L, Li B, Pan MX, Mo XF, Chen YM, Zhang CX. Specific carotenoid intake is inversely associated with the risk of breast cancer among Chinese women. Br J Nutr. 2014 May;111(9):1686-95. doi: 10.1017/S000711451300411X.

Huang JP, Zhang M, Holman CD, Xie X. Dietary carotenoids and risk of breast cancer in Chinese women. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2007;16 Suppl 1:437-42.

Ramírez-Expósito MJ, Sánchez-López E, Cueto-Ureña C, Dueñas B, Carrera-González P, Navarro-Cecilia J, Mayas MD, Arias de Saavedra JM, Sánchez-Agesta R, Martínez-Martos JM. Circulating oxidative stress parameters in pre- and post-menopausal healthy women and in women suffering from breast cancer treated or not with neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Exp Gerontol. 2014 Jul 11. pii: S0531-5565(14)00211-3. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2014.07.006.


Case Adams is a California Naturopath and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn our health around. As I drove home that night, I realized this knowledge should be available to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.”

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