N° 157
12 January 2005 

Vegetables and fruits do not protect against breast cancer

The consumption of vegetables and fruits does not protect against breast cancer.
This is concluded by Dr. Carla van Gils and colleagues on the basis of a large European investigation, including almost 300,000 participants from eight European countries. More than 3500 of these women developed breast cancer.

In the past years there have been indications that the consumption of vegetables and fruits would lower cancer risk. This is consistent with the idea that fibre, antioxidant vitamins and other compounds of vegetables and fruits may have an anticarcinogenic effect. For breast cancer, however, the most recent studies do not show a protective effect.

In the large European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) no protective effect could be established either. This investigation is coordinated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and co-financed by the European Commission and several national cancer charities.

"This investigation is the largest until now and spanning a wide range of vegetables and fruit consumption by participants from the North to the South of Europe. It provides evidence that the consumption of vegetables and fruits during adulthood or midlife
does not lower breast cancer risk" say Dr. Carla van Gils and Dr. Petra Peeters from the University Medical Center Utrecht (the Netherlands) that took the lead in this analysis together with Dr. Elio Riboli from IARC (France).

"Although these findings may be disappointing, there are indications that consumption of fruits and vegetables may be protective for cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, stomach and possibly colorectum and lung. Furthermore, fruit and vegetable consumption has been shown to lower blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease, therefore there are good reasons to recommend eating plenty of fruit and vegetables" says Dr Elio Riboli.

Contact persons:
Ms. Kirsten Sontrop, UMCU, the Netherlands, +31-30-250 8580 (or 6371),
Dr Nicolas Gaudin, IARC, Lyon, France, + 33-4 72 73 8567,

World Health Organization
International Agency for Research on Cancer

Organisation mondiale de la Santé
Centre international de Recherche sur le Cancer

150, cours Albert-Thomas 69372 Lyon Cedex 08 (France)
Telephone: 33 472 738 485     Facsimile: 33 472 738 311