Science Short

Teens, eat your greens for a lower breast cancer risk, say scientists

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

The consumption of fruits and vegetables rich in α carotene were singled out as being particularly important. (©
The consumption of fruits and vegetables rich in α carotene were singled out as being particularly important. (©

Related tags: Breast cancer, Fruit

Fruit and vegetable intake during teenage years and early adulthood is strongly associated with a lowered risk of breast cancer, a study has concluded.

The results, published in the British Medical Journal,​ serve to reinforce the belief that food choices made during adolescence might set the tone health-wise in later years.

Researchers from Harvard University tracked 90,000 nurses over a 20-year period, who reported their diet in early adulthood. Some were able to recall their typical diet during adolescence.

Results indicated high fruit consumption during teenage years (2.9 vs 0.5 servings per day) corresponded to a lowered risk of 25% in a breast cancer diagnosis during middle age.

Alpha carotene potency

Apples, bananas and grapes fared particularly well in its cancer-protective properties.

Additionally, oranges and kale were significantly associated with a reduced breast cancer risk as were fruits and vegetables rich in alpha carotene.

However, no link was established between intake of fruit juice in either adolescence or early adulthood and risk.

Despite the good reputation enjoyed by fruit and vegetable consumption, fruit juice​ has been implicated in a number of negative effects​ to health.

“We observed that the associations between adolescent fruit intake and breast cancer differed by hormone receptor status, with a stronger inverse association for both oestrogen and progesterone receptor negative cancer,”​ said the study’s authors.

“Also, in decisions about fruit consumption, other consequences should be considered, and these include lower risks of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”

Source: British Medical Journal

Published online ahead of print,

“Fruit and vegetable consumption in adolescence and early adulthood and risk of breast cancer: population based cohort study.”

Authors: Maryam Farvid, Wendy Chen, Karin Michels, Eunyoung Cho, Walter Willett, A Heather Eliassen,

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