Collards, Carrots, and Breast Cancer

Researchers looking at data from the ongoing Black Women’s Health Study found that eating carrots, collard greens, cabbage, and broccoli can reduce breast cancer risk, particularly an aggressive form common among African American women. Previous studies of the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and breast cancer in white women have led to conflicting results, and no prior research has investigated this link separately among African American women.

The ER-negative form of breast cancer, which is insensitive to the hormone estrogen, is more common in this population than among white women. It is more difficult to treat and more often fatal than estrogen-sensitive cancers.

Researchers found that women who ate at least two servings of vegetables a day had a 43 percent lower risk of ER-negative breast cancer compared with women who ate fewer than four servings of vegetables each week.

Further, they identified certain types of vegetables that appeared to reduce the risk of all types of breast cancer, including broccoli, collard greens, cabbage and carrots.

Women who ate three or more servings a week of carrots, for instance, had a 17 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer than women who ate carrots less than once a month.

Still, it is too early to determine if this is a true cause-and effect-relationship, they note. High vegetable consumption could mark a healthier lifestyle in general or some other unknown mechanism that accounts for the apparent protection. Vegetables’ cancer-staving power needs to be confirmed in further studies, the researchers write. However, it is clear that, in addition to potential protective effects against breast cancer, higher vegetable consumption can lead to many health benefits, including lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Therefore, it is recommended that all women, especially African Americans, try to increase their daily intake of vegetables to meet the established guidelines.

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