Fruit and vegetables consumption and breast cancer risk: the EPIC Italy study

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2012 Apr;132(3):1127-36. doi: 10.1007/s10549-011-1939-7. Epub 2012 Jan 4.


The role of fruit and vegetables in breast cancer (BC) development has long been debated. A large variety of vegetables and fruit are consumed by Mediterranean populations, a favourable setting for evaluating the effects of these foods. The association between vegetables and fruit consumption, overall and by specific types, and BC risk was studied in the Italian section of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study. Over 31,000 women, aged 36-64 years, recruited in five Italian centers between 1993 and 1998, were available for analyses with dietary and lifestyle information and anthropometric measurements. After a median follow-up of 11.25 years, 1,072 invasive and in situ incident BC cases were identified. Cox proportional hazard models (adjusted for education, anthropometry, reproductive history, hormone replacement therapy, physical activity, alcohol consumption and smoking habits) showed an inverse association between consumption of all vegetables and BC risk (highest vs. lowest quintile HR 0.65; 95% CI 0.53-0.81, P for trend = 0.003). According to subtypes of vegetables, an inverse association emerged for increasing consumption of leafy vegetables (highest vs. lowest quintile HR 0.70; 95% CI 0.57-0.86, P for trend = 0.0001) and fruiting vegetables (highest vs. lowest quintile HR 0.75; 95% CI 0.60-0.94, P for trend = 0.01). An inverse association also emerged with increasing consumption of raw tomatoes (P for trend = 0.03). In contrast, no association of fruit, overall or by subtypes, with BC risk was found. In this Mediterranean population, a clear protective role of increasing vegetables consumption, mainly leafy and fruiting vegetables, on BC risk emerged.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Diet, Mediterranean*
  • Female
  • Fruit*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Factors
  • Vegetables*