Serum carotenoids and breast cancer


Toniolo P, Van Kappel AL, Akhmedkhanov A, Ferrari P, Kato I, Shore RE, et al




Am J Epidemiol


The consumption of vegetables and fruit may protect against many types of cancer, but research evidence is not compelling for breast cancer. Carotenoids are pigments that are present in most plants and have known antioxidant properties. Blood concentrations of carotenoids have been proposed as integrated biochemical markers of vegetable, fruit, and synthetic supplements consumed. In a case-control study (270 cases, 270 controls) nested within a cohort in New York during 1985-1994, the carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-cryptoxanthin, lycopene, alpha-carotene, and beta-carotene were measured in archived serum samples using liquid chromatography. There was an evident increase in the risk of breast cancer for decreasing beta-carotene, lutein, alpha-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin. The risk of breast cancer approximately doubled among subjects with blood levels of beta-carotene at the lowest quartile, as compared with those at the highest quartile (odds ratio = 2.21; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.29, 3.79). The risk associated with the other carotenoids was similar, varying between 2.08 (95% CI: 1.11, 3.90) for lutein and 1.68 (95% CI: 0.99, 2.86) for beta-cryptoxanthin. The odds ratio for the lower quartile of total carotenoids was 2.31 (95% CI: 1.35, 3.96). These observations offer evidence that a low intake of carotenoids, through poor diet and/or lack of vitamin supplementation, may be associated with increased risk of breast cancer and may have public health relevance for people with markedly low intakes.