Eat More Veggies To Lower Breast Cancer Risks

Estrogen receptor negative breast cancer risks lower in women whose diets are high in vegetables

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) You’d have to have been living under a rock not to have heard that eating more fruits and vegetables is good for you. There’s new evidence that consuming more vegetables might lower the risks of one type of breast cancer.

According to new research, a diet high in vegetables and fruits is associated with lower risks of estrogen receptor-negative (ER-) breast cancer. This form of the disease appears in about 15 percent of the cases and is a tough one to overcome. Unlike ER+ breast cancers that are fed by estrogen, ER- breast cancers are not sensitive to estrogen levels. As a result ER- breast cancers don’t respond to hormone therapies.

Results also showed that fruit and vegetable intake did not lower the risks of overall breast cancer or ER+ breast tumors.

"Eat more plants."

Seungyoun Jung, ScD, formerly from the Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, and currently at the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital, led the study to see what, if any associations, existed between fruit and vegetable intake and breast cancer.

Researchers have long believed that fruit and vegetable consumption is related to lower breast cancer risks. However, these associations have never been proven.

Dr. Jung and colleagues looked at and analyzed data from 20 different studies involving 993,466 women. Study participants were followed for 11 to 20 years. During that time, nearly 20,000 ER+ breast cancers were diagnosed among the participants, and there were 4,821 cases of ER− breast cancer.

The women completed surveys to record their fruit and vegetable intake. Researchers looked at and compared low and high intake. The range for total fruit consumption was 118 to 392 grams per day while vegetable consumption ranged from 61 to 259 grams per day.

Researchers found that total plant consumption was associated with lower risk of ER- breast cancer. Eating more vegetables was seen as the greatest factor in this lowered risk.

Fruit and vegetable intake did not affect overall breast cancer risks or the likelihood of developing ER+ tumors.

An accompanying editorial said these findings support the value of making vegetables a major part of a woman’s diet. The same holds true – but to a lesser extent – for fruit consumption.

Eve Pearson, MBA, RD, CSSD, a licensed and registered dietitian in Fort Worth, Texas, told dailyRx News, "I don't find the results published here all that surprising.  This is why, as a Registered Dietitian, I'm constantly reminding my clients that the recommendations for vegetables are always higher than those for fruit.  Whether you're active or sedentary, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend as much as one cup more vegetables than fruits every day," Pearson said.

Cynthia A. Thomson, PhD, and Patricia A. Thompson, PhD, both of the University of Arizona Cancer Center, wrote, “In the simplest take-home message, the findings of this study support the emphasis of public messages for greater vegetable and selective fruit intake by extending a potential benefit for ER-negative breast cancer.”

Findings from this study were published January 24 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. This work was supported by grants from National Institute of Health, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and a Samsung Scholarship fellowship.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 28, 2013
Last Updated:
January 29, 2013