Carotenoids linked to lower breast cancer risk

Women with higher levels of antioxidant-rich carotenoids were associated with a significantly lower risk of developing a particularly aggressive type of breast cancer in a recent study.

A diet packed with antioxidant-rich carotenoids may help defend against a particularly nasty type of breast cancers, according to new research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The largest nested case-control study to date found that high plasma concentrations of alpha-carotene and beta-carotene lowers the risk of developing Estrogen Receptor-negative (ER-) breast cancer. Because there are no hormone receptors in this type of cancer, hormonal therapy is unlikely to work against it. Patients with this more aggressive type of breast cancer have a 10 percent lower five-year survival rate than patients with hormone receptor positive cancer, according to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Researchers found that subjects with the highest concentration of plasma alpha-carotene and beta-carotene had a significantly reduced risk of breast cancer when compared with the lowest concentration. The risk of developing ER- tumors was 39-59 percent lower among the women with the highest levels of carotenoids.

The new study is part of the large European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and nutrition cohort (EPIC), which began in 1992. The cohort included 521,468 subjects from across Europe. Researchers analyzed the concentrations of alpha and beta-carotene in subjects’ blood then used conditional logistic regression to estimate the risk of cancer according to hormone receptor status and age of the subject.

This new research is just the latest suggesting the cancer-fighting powers of antioxidants. Another new study, published earlier this year in the Journal of Cancer, found a 32 percent reduction risk for breast cancer among women with higher antioxidant scores compared with women with lower scores.

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