Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Fruits, Veggies Tied to Lower Breast Cancer Risk

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 6, 2012 -- Women now have one more reason to eat their fruits and veggies.

A new study suggests that women with higher levels of carotenoids (nutrients found in fruits and vegetables) have a lower risk of breast cancer -- especially cancers that are harder to treat and have a poorer prognosis.

When researchers from Harvard Medical School pooled the results of studies that measured carotenoid levels in women’s blood, they found that those with the highest levels had a lower risk of breast cancer compared to those with the lowest levels.

The association appeared to be stronger for smokers than for non-smokers and for women who were lean compared to those who were overweight.

Eat Your Carrots, Avoid Breast Cancer?

Carotenoids are the micronutrients in fruits and vegetables that give them their vibrant orange, yellow, and red colors. Foods that are good sources of carotenoids include carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, red peppers, and winter squash.

Having higher circulating blood-carotenoid levels may be particularly protective against breast cancers that do not need estrogen to grow.

The finding suggests that eating a healthy, plant-based diet may be one of the first modifiable risk factors for these less common, poorer-prognosis cancers.

Breast cancer risk factors we have known about all involve more common estrogen-dependent cancers,” says researcher A. Heather Eliassen, ScD.

The study combined data from eight trials that included more than 3,000 women with breast cancer and close to 4,000 women without the disease.

It is not clear if carotenoids directly lowered cancer risk.

But Stephanie Bernik, MD, who is chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, says the message to women does not change.

“We have said if we want to reduce the risk of cancer -- not just breast cancer -- eating a plant-based diet low in fat and animal protein may help,” she says. “This study, like others, suggests this is the case.”

The study was published Dec. 6 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Fruits, Veggies May Help High-Risk Women Most

Bernik says the suggestion that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables may be particularly beneficial for women at risk for non-estrogen-dependent tumors is especially intriguing.

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Woman getting mammogram
Screening Tests for Women
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
serious woman
what is your cancer risk
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow