Women with higher levels of micronutrients found in many fruits and vegetables may be less likely to develop breast cancer, new study has revealed.
Previous research has shown that the nutrients, called carotenoids, can inhibit tumour growth and reduce the spread of breast cancers.
"Carotenoids are found in carrots, spinach, kale, tomatoes, bell peppers, sweet potatoes and other vegetables," News 24.com quoted Dr Stephanie Bernik, an expert not connected to the study, as saying.
"There has been some evidence in the past that these substances are helpful in reducing the risk of cancer," Bernik, who is chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said.
In the new study, researchers led by A. Heather Eliassen of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, in Boston, analyzed data from thousands of women who took part in eight previous studies on carotenoid levels and breast cancer.
They found a statistically significant association between higher levels of carotenoids and reduced breast cancer risk, especially so-called ER-negative breast cancers - tumours that aren't reliant on oestrogen to fuel their growth.
The findings highlight carotenoid levels as one of the first modifiable risk factors to be identified for ER-negative breast cancers, the team said.
While there is some evidence that carotenoids also inhibit the growth of ER-positive breast cancers (cancers that respond to oestrogen), it's possible that this benefit is hidden by hormone-related associations that overpower other risk factors, the researchers added.
The study found a link between carotenoid levels and breast cancer risk, but it did not prove that the nutrients prevent the disease.
The study was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. (ANI)