A new and largest nested case-control study to date demonstrates that high plasma concentration of carotenoids (alpha-carotene and beta-carotene) lowers the risk of developing Estrogen Receptor-negative (ER-) breast cancer (ie: growth of cancer cells that is independent of estrogen hormone).

This study is part of the large EPIC study (the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition cohort), initiated in 1992. It is the largest detailed study on the association of plasma carotenoids, retinol, tocopherol and vitamin C and risk of breast cancer.  The total EPIC cohort consists of 521,468 participants recruited from 23 centers in 10 European countries (see EPIC-Europe). Blood concentrations of carotenoids including alpha-carotene and beta-carotene were examined and conditional logistic regression was used to estimate the breast cancer risk according to hormone receptor status and age.

This largest epidemiological study provides an insight into the significant role that alpha-carotene and beta-carotene play in the etiology of breast cancer. Among the biomarkers analysed, the breast cancer risk was significantly reduced by 39-59% when comparing the highest concentration of plasma alpha-carotene and beta-carotene with the lowest concentration among ER-negative breast cancer females. In addition, there was a significant inverse association between plasma beta-carotene and ER-/PR-(progesterone receptor-negative) patients. However, interestingly, plasma vitamin C, zeaxanthin and retinol did not show significant protective effects against breast cancer. 

“If a woman is said to have hormone receptor-negative breast cancer such as ER-, her breast tumor is hormone-insensitive or resistant to hormone therapy. Additionally, hormone receptor-negative tumors are more likely to grow when compared to hormone-receptor-positive tumors. Hence, hormone receptor-negative women not only have less treatment options, but also having more aggressive cancer cells,” says CheeYen Lau, Nutritionist at ExcelVite. “The findings of this cohort study is very motivating as the results showed high consumption of carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables (alpha-carotene and beta-carotene particularly) may help to reduce the risk of breast cancer among ER- women,” adds CheeYen. 

“This study underscores the benefits of alpha- and beta-carotene in breast cancer risk. Although the authors could not directly link the benefits to dietary supplementation, it might help women to consider increasing alpha- and beta-carotene in their blood plasma via consumption of fruits and vegetables with high alpha- and beta-carotene or a more simple and direct way, via dietary supplementation,” says Bryan See, Regional Product Manager, ExcelVite. “Companies may consider fortification of food and beverage products with EVTene™. EVTene™ is the only true mixed carotenoids complex with the highest ratio of alpha-carotene in nature, as well as beta-carotene and a small amount of other carotenoids. The product is available in different forms to cater to different applications,” added Bryan.

Source:

Bakker M. F. et.al (2016). Plasma carotenoids, vitamin C, tocopherols and retinol and the risk of breast cancer in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition cohort. Am J Clin Nutr. doi:10.3945/ajcn.114.101659.