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Beta-carotene and breast cancer

NEW YORK, NY. Carotenoids, like beta-carotene, are important constituents of fruits and vegetables. Numerous studies have investigated the association between the dietary intake of carotenoids and the risk of breast cancer. Some have found a beneficial effect, others have not. Researchers at the New York University School of Medicine now weigh in with the results of a new study that shows a clear benefit of carotenoids.

Their study involved 270 women diagnosed with breast cancer and 270 matched controls (125 pre- and 145 postmenopausal in each group). All the participants had blood samples taken at the beginning of the study in 1985 (at least 6 months and more likely an average of four years prior to the cancer diagnosis). These samples were frozen at minus 80 degrees Celsius until analysis in 1995. The researchers found that women with the lowest levels of carotenoids in their blood serum had twice the incidence of breast cancer than did women with the highest levels (highest quartile). The specific odds ratios were 2.21 for beta- carotene, 2.08 for lutein, 1.68 for beta-cryptoxanthin, and 2.0 for alpha-carotene. The researchers conclude that, "These observations offer evidence that a low intake of carotenoids, through poor diet and/or lack of vitamin supplementation, may be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer."
Toniolo, Paolo, et al. Serum carotenoids and breast cancer. American Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 153, June 15, 2001, pp. 1142-51

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