Carotenoids Help prevent lethal and recurrent breast cancer

August 12, 2015

Carotenoids Help prevent lethal and recurrent breast cancer

Carotenoids are pigments in vegetables and fruits. Examples of well known carotenoids include Lycopene, the pigment in tomato sauce that powerfully protects a mans prostate, a woman’s breasts, and the skin, or Lutein which is the most important carotenoid in the eyes and brain.     

A newly published case-control study found that a high concentration of mixed carotenoids in the blood may help shield women from breast cancer. The study included 2,188 breast cancer patients who were participants in the long-running Nurses' Health Study. Their blood was first collected between the years 1989-1990. Over the following 20 years they developed breast cancer. They were matched with an equal number of nurses who did not develop the disease. Initial and subsequently collected blood samples were analyzed for an array of carotenoids.

Among women whose total carotenoid levels were among the top 20% of subjects, there was a 23% lower risk of developing breast cancer in comparison with those whose levels were among the lowest 20%. Among individual carotenoids, Alpha carotene, Beta carotene, and Lycopene were significantly protective. High levels of carotenoids were more protective against recurrent or lethal breast cancer than non-recurrent and nonlethal disease. Nurses whose total carotenoid levels were among the top fifth experiencing half the risk of recurrent or lethal disease than those whose levels were lowest.

"These results suggest carotenoids may inhibit tumor initiation, which is compatible with hypothesized mechanisms, including the conversion of provitamin A carotenoids to retinol, which regulates cell growth, differentiation, and apoptosis, and the antioxidant capacity to scavenge reactive oxygen species and prevent DNA damage," write A. Heather Eliassen of Harvard University and colleagues. The study is published in the June 2015 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.