About The Buzz: Beta-Carotene in Fruits & Veggies Can Protect Against Breast Disease?

TheBUZZ Beta-carotene in fruits & veggies can protect against breast disease?


Fruit and vegetable consumption in teenage girls may lower the risk of benign breast disease.


Researchers reviewed the food frequency questionnaires completed by 6,593 adolescent girls in 1996, 1997, and 1998 to determine their intake of certain carotenoids: carotene, cryptoxanthin, lutein/zeaxanthain, and lycopene. The purpose of the study was to determine the impact of these carotenoids on benign breast disease (a group of lumps that can develop during adolescence and young adulthood) which are an independent risk factor for breast cancer later in life. Follow-up with study participants was done several years later (in 2005, 2007, and 2010), through an analysis of reports by the teenage participants regarding benign breast disease that had been confirmed through biopsy results.


  • Carotenoid intake during adolescence may be linked to a lower risk of benign breast disease. This association was strongest for beta-carotene, but not statistically significant with alpha-carotene and lutein/zeaxanthin.
  • Exposure to carotenoids may be most important during adolescence when breast tissue is still developing.
  • Further study on the association between carotenoids and benign breast disease is warranted.*


There are many reasons to eat fruits and vegetables. One important reason is to get enough carotenoids, naturally occurring compounds in fruits and vegetables, which contain strong antioxidant and disease-protective properties. Found in all edible portions of a fruit or vegetable, carotenoids are frequently concentrated in the skin. So eating fruits and vegetables with their peels on is a plus. Each fruit or vegetable has a unique mixture of nutrients and phytochemicals, so eating across and within the color groups is a great way to maximize the health benefits fruits and vegetables can provide.

Beta-carotene is probably the most familiar and well-studied of the carotenoids. As this study of adolescent girls shows, it may protect against benign breast disease, which often leads to breast cancer. Be sure you are getting beta-carotene in your diet by eating plenty of yellow/orange fruits and vegetables and dark green leafy vegetables, including: pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, cantaloupe, apricots, spinach, kale, and broccoli.

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* Boeke, Caroline E., Rulla M. Tamimi, Catherine S. Berkey, et. al., “Adolescent Carotenoid Intake and Benign Breast Disease.” Pediatrics, April 7, 2014 (doi: 10.1542/peds.2013-3844)). Accessed April 18, 2014. View Abstract

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