- Carrots are rich in beta-carotene which gives food their bright colours
- Scientists believe the naturally occurring chemicals have protective effect
- It is also found in foods such as spinach, red peppers and mangoes
- Diet made women 40-60% less likely to develop certain breast cancers
PUBLISHED: 17:26 GMT, 24 February 2016 | UPDATED: 02:50 GMT, 25 February 2016
Eating carrots regularly could slash a woman’s chances of developing certain types of breast cancer by up to 60 per cent, a study shows.
Other fruits and vegetables rich in a pigment called beta-carotene – such as spinach, red peppers and mangoes – have the same effect.
Beta-carotene is a naturally occurring chemical which gives plant foods their bright colours.
For years, scientists have been advocating its consumption as part of a healthy diet in order to ward off life-threatening conditions like heart disease and cancer.
But the latest study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggests the benefits in terms of breast cancer are greater than anyone thought.+2
Carrots and other vegetables are rich in beta-carotene – a naturally occurring chemical which gives plant foods their bright colours
Around 58,000 women a year in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer.
The disease strikes one in eight at some point in their lives.
A healthy diet rich in plant chemicals has long been thought to have a protective effect.
Scientists carrying out one of the biggest ever studies into the relationship between diet and cancer – the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition – looked at a wide range of plant chemicals to see how they affected cancer risk.
Scientists from all across Europe studied 1,500 women diagnosed with breast tumours and another 1,500 or so who were cancer-free.
They were quizzed on dietary habits and blood tests were carried out to measure levels of beta-carotene, as well as other plant-based substances like vitamin C and lycopene.
The results revealed that women who ate foods packed with beta-carotene – like carrots and peppers – were between 40 and 60 per cent less likely to develop oestrogen receptor negative breast cancers.
These account for nearly one in three of all breast tumours.
But the pigment did not appear to lower a woman’s chances of oestrogen receptor positive tumours – which account for the bulk of breast cancers in the UK.
The benefits from other plant chemicals were also negligible, researchers said.+2
Scientists from all across Europe studied 1,500 women diagnosed with breast tumours and another 1,500 or so who were cancer-free and quizzed them on their dietary habits
The government’s NHS Choices website says beta-carotene is vital as it gets turned into vitamin A by the body, helping vision and boosting the immune system.
But it warns against taking supplements in high doses as too much has been linked with lung cancer in some people.
Britain produces around 700,000 tonnes of carrots a year and the market is worth an estimated £290m per annum.Everyone can reduce their risk of breast cancer and many other diseases through healthy lifestyle choices Dr Richard Berks, Breast Cancer Now
In a report on their findings researchers said: ‘Our results indicate higher concentrations of carotene are associated with lower breast cancer risk of oestrogen negative tumours.’
Dr Richard Berks, senior research communications officer at charity Breast Cancer Now, said it was further proof of how a health diet can lower a person’s chances of getting cancer.
‘We’ve long known that a healthy diet – carrots included – can help to lower your risk of breast cancer because it helps to maintain a healthy weight,’ he said.
‘While it’s really important to eat vegetables as part of a balanced diet, there is unfortunately no such thing as a superfood when it comes to breast cancer risk.
‘Everyone can reduce their risk of breast cancer and many other diseases through healthy lifestyle choices – such as maintaining a healthy weight, having a varied and balanced diet, being more active, and limiting your alcohol intake.’