While early detection and regular screenings are the best ways for women to protect themselves against the devastating effects of breast cancer, there are also several lifestyle and diet changes that have also been known to reduce cancer risk. According to a study published last week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, loading up on red and orange vegetables can greatly reduce the risk of breast cancer in women.

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The study, conducted by researchers from Harvard School of Public Health, found that eating vegetables and fruits rich in a chemical called carotenoids such as carrots, tomatoes and butternut squash, can reduce cancer risk by as much as 20%. Researchers examined the findings of several previous studies and discovered that women who ate the most red and orange fruits and vegetables had the lowest incidence of a particularly deadly type of breast cancer called estrogen receptor negative.

The authors wrote: “The inverse associations we observed among ER [estrogen receptor negative] tumors highlight carotenoids as one of the first modifiable risk factors for this poor prognosis tumor type. A diet high in carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables offers many health benefits, including a possible reduced risk of breast cancer.”

To get the maximum benefits of these healthy foods, try to incorporate a wide variety of fruits and vegetables into your diet. Carotenoids come in four different categories and you will want to make sure to get your fill of each one.


Fruits and vegetables in this category include tomatoes, grapefruit watermelon


This category includes many late season fruits and vegetables like winter squash, apples and pumpkin as well as Swiss chard, cilantro, thyme, green beans and kale.


For this group, look for spinach, sweet potatoes, turnip greens and carrots.


Broccoli, peas, brussel sprouts, corn, collard greens and romaine lettuce are all excellent sources of this essential nutrient.

Check out our favorite healthy eating guides to learn more!