The mere mention of the word cancer can strike fear into most people’s hearts, but a new report from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reported that women who consumed the highest levels of carotenoids have the lowest rates of breast cancer.
What are carotenoids? Carotenoids are micronutrients found in red, yellow, and other deeply-colored fruits and vegetables. Examples of produce with high levels of carotenoids include carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, broccoli, bell peppers, and blueberries.
The results were particularly exciting with regards to a difficult to treat cancer called estrogen-receptor negative cancer (ER-). The effect of high levels of consumption had a particularly strong effect on this type of cancer.
The exact mechanism resulting in these positive statistics isn’t exactly understood. It might be that carotenoids turn into retinol, which helps regulate cell growth and gene expression in our bodies, leading to less tumor growth. Or, it may be that the micronutrients help cells communicate more efficiently, improve immune function, and thereby help the body more efficiently suppress abnormally growing cells.
But the researchers caution against just popping a supplement and thinking you are doing your body a favor. Some types of cancer in certain populations, such as lung cancer in smokers, have been shown to increase with a rise in carotenoid levels. Your best bet is to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, which as a whole contain a number of nutrients that contribute to health.
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