BACKGROUND: Data on intake of specific carotenoids and breast cancer risk are limited. Furthermore, studies of vitamins A, C, and E in relation to breast cancer risk are inconclusive. We have conducted a large, prospective study to evaluate long-term intakes of these nutrients and breast cancer risk.
METHODS: We examined, by use of multivariate analysis, associations between intakes of specific carotenoids, vitamins A, C, and E , consumption of fruits and vegetables, and breast cancer risk in a cohort of 83 234 women (aged 33-60 years in 1980) who were participating in the Nurses' Health Study. Through 1994, we identified 2697 incident cases of invasive breast cancer (784 premenopausal and 1913 postmenopausal).
RESULTS: Intakes of ß-carotene from food and supplements, lutein/zeaxanthin, and vitamin A from foods were weakly inversely associated with breast cancer risk in premenopausal women. Strong inverse associations were found for increasing quintiles of -carotene, ß-carotene, lutein/zeaxanthin, total vitamin C from foods, and total vitamin A among premenopausal women with a positive family history of breast cancer. An inverse association was also found for increasing quintiles of ß-carotene among premenopausal women who consumed 15 g or more of alcohol per day. Premenopausal women who consumed five or more servings per day of fruits and vegetables had modestly lower risk of breast cancer than those who had less than two servings per day (relative risk [RR] = 0.77; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.58-1.02); this association was stronger among premenopausal women who had a positive family history of breast cancer (RR = 0.29; 95% CI = 0.13-0.62) or those who consumed 15 g or more of alcohol per day (RR = 0.53; 95% CI = 0.27-1.04).
CONCLUSIONS: Consumption of fruits and vegetables high in specific carotenoids and vitamins may reduce premenopausal breast cancer risk.