Pigments found in fruits and vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes, peppers and oranges may reduce the risk of breast cancer, a study has shown.
Women whose diets included high levels of carotenoids were about 20 per cent less likely to develop the disease than those consuming low levels.
Carotenoids are natural pigments responsible for the red, yellow and orange hues of brightly-coloured vegetables and fruits.
Also found in dark green vegetables such as spinach, they act as antioxidants and are believed to have anti-cancer properties.
Scientists conducting the new research analysed data from eight large studies looking at carotenoids and breast cancer.
In more than 3,000 participants, there were statistically significant associations between blood levels of carotenoids and breast cancer risk.
Women in the top fifth of the carotenoid table were less likely to have cancer than those in the bottom fifth.
Different types of carotenoid had different degrees of protective effect, ranging from 13 per cent to 22 per cent. Overall, high carotenoid levels were associated with a 19 per cent risk reduction.
The authors, led by Heather Eliassen, from Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston in the US, wrote in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute: “A diet high in carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables offers many health benefits, including a possible reduced risk of breast cancer.”