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CBS by Michelle Castillo (WLTX)--Women who have higher levels of nutrients commonly found in vegetables may have a lower risk of developing breast cancer, say researchers at Brigham & Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Their study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute on Dec. 6, found that women who had high circulating levels of so-called "carotenoids" had an inverse relationship with breast cancer risk, especially for estrogen receptor-negative (ER-) types of breast cancer.

"The inverse associations we observed among ER- tumors highlight carotenoids as one of the first modifiable risk factors for this poor prognosis tumor type," the authors wrote.

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancerin U.S. women, with an estimated 226,870 female and 2,190 male cases diagnosed or to be diagnosed in 2012 according to the National Cancer Institute.

Approximately 39,510 women and 410 men will die of the disease this year.

Breast cancer cells can be ER+, meaning they are sensitive to estrogen, progesterone receptor positive (PR), indicating they are fueled by progesterone, or hormone receptor (HR) negative, suggesting they aren't affected at all by hormones. An ER- status means the cancer is not spurred on by estrogen, but its growth may or may not be influenced by progesterone.

Carotenoids include a group of more than 700 micronutrients that help add deep green, yellow, orange or red colors to vegetables and fruits, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Beta-carotene and lycopene are common carotenoids found in veggies. Some produce high in the compounds include carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and tomatoes. Previous research on carotenoids have shown that they can stop tumors from growing and lower estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) and ER- cancers from multiplying.

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