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Increased intakes of carotenoids may lower breast cancer risk

December 19, 2012

Women with higher blood concentrations of carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin may be at reduced risk of breast cancer, says a new data analysis from the US.

To investigate a potential association between carotenoids and breast cancer risk, the study analyzed data from eight cohort studies involving a total of 7011 participants (1). The analysis showed that women with higher levels of individual and total carotenoids had a significantly lower risk for breast cancer risk, with a stronger finding in estrogen receptor–negative (ER-) breast cancers.

The researchers concluded that a diet high in carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables offers many health bene-fits, including a possible reduced risk of breast cancer. The potential preventive effect on ER-tumours could mean that carotenoid intake is one of the first modifiable risk factors for this poor prognosis tumour type. There is some evidence from experimental studies that carotenoids block tumour progression and reduce proliferation of estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancers as well, but it is possible that this effect is hidden by hormone related associations, which overpower other risk factors, the scientists commented.

They said, it is too early to recommend the use of specific high-dose carotenoid supplements for breast can-cer prevention. Earlier this month, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded that exposure to beta-carotene from food additives and food supplements at a level below 15 mg/day does not give rise to concerns about adverse health effects in the general population, including for heavy smokers (2).

References

  1. Eliassen A. H. et al. Circulating carotenoids and risk of breast cancer: pooled analysis of eight prospective studies. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Published online December 2012.
  2. EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food. Statement on the safety of beta-carotene use in heavy smokers. EFSA Journal 2012; 10(12):2953.