Objective To evaluate the association between fruit and vegetable intake during adolescence and early adulthood and risk of breast cancer.
Design Prospective cohort study.
Setting Health professionals in the United States.
Participants 90 476 premenopausal women aged 27-44 from the Nurses’ Health Study II who completed a questionnaire on diet in 1991 as well as 44 223 of those women who completed a questionnaire about their diet during adolescence in 1998.
Main outcome measure Incident cases of invasive breast cancer, identified through self report and confirmed by pathology report.
Results There were 3235 cases of invasive breast cancer during follow-up to 2013. Of these, 1347 cases were among women who completed a questionnaire about their diet during adolescence (ages 13-18). Total fruit consumption during adolescence was associated with a lower risk of breast cancer. The hazard ratio was 0.75 (95% confidence interval 0.62 to 0.90; P=0.01 for trend) for the highest (median intake 2.9 servings/day) versus the lowest (median intake 0.5 serving/day) fifth of intake. The association for fruit intake during adolescence was independent of adult fruit intake. There was no association between risk and total fruit intake in early adulthood and total vegetable intake in either adolescence or early adulthood. Higher early adulthood intake of fruits and vegetables rich in α carotene was associated with lower risk of premenopausal breast cancer. The hazard ratio was 0.82 (0.70 to 0.96) for the highest fifth (median intake 0.5 serving/day) versus the lowest fifth (median intake 0.03 serving/day) intake. The association with adolescent fruit intake was stronger for both estrogen and progesterone receptor negative cancers than estrogen and progesterone receptor positive cancers (P=0.02 for heterogeneity). For individual fruits and vegetables, greater consumption of apple, banana, and grapes during adolescence and oranges and kale during early adulthood was significantly associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer. Fruit juice intake in adolescence or early adulthood was not associated with risk.
Conclusion There is an association between higher fruit intake and lower risk of breast cancer. Food choices during adolescence might be particularly important.