Plasma carotenoids, retinol, and tocopherols and risk of breast cancer

Rulla M. Tamimi, Susan E. Hankinson, Hannia Campos, Donna Spiegelman, Shumin Zhang, Graham A. Colditz, Walter C. Willett, David J. Hunter

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132 Scopus citations


The roles of carotenoids, retinol, and tocopherols in breast cancer etiology have been inconclusive. The authors prospectively assessed the relations between plasma α-carotene, β-carotene, β- cryptoxanthin, lycopene, lutein/zeaxanthin, retinol, α-tocopherol, and γ-tocopherol and breast cancer risk by conducting a nested case-control study using plasma collected from women enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study. A total of 969 cases of breast cancer diagnosed after blood draw and prior to June 1, 1998, were individually matched to controls. The multivariate risk of breast cancer was 25-35% less for women with the highest quintile compared with that for women with the lowest quintile of α-carotene (odds ratio (OR) = 0.64, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.47, 0.88; ptrend = 0.01), β-carotene (OR = 0.73, 95% CI: 0.53, 1.02; ptrend = 0.01), lutein/zeaxanthin (OR = 0.74, 95% CI: 0.55, 1.01; ptrend = 0.04), and total carotenoids (OR = 0.76, 95% CI: 0.55, 1.05; ptrend = 0.05). The inverse association observed with α-carotene and breast cancer was greater for invasive cancers with nodal metastasis. The authors conclude that some carotenoids are inversely associated with breast cancer. Although the association was strongest for α-carotene, the high degree of collinearity among plasma carotenoids limits our ability to conclude that this association is specific to any individual carotenoid.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-160
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican journal of epidemiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 15 2005


  • Breast neoplasms
  • Carotenoids
  • Oxidative stress
  • Tocopherols
  • Vitamin A


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