Women can reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer by eating plenty of foods high in carotene and lycopene, according to a new study published in the 1 October issue of the International Journal of Cancer 2001 (pp. 128-134).

Carotene, which is turned into vitamin A by the body, and lycopene are both antioxidants, found in foods such as carrots and tomatoes.

Dr Daniel W. Cramer led the study into the disease, which was conducted at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Data was collected on the dietary habits of 563 women with ovarian cancer and 523 healthy women. After analysing the amounts of vitamin A, C, D, and E and alpha- and beta-carotene and lycopene each woman consumed, the researchers concluded that a high carotene intake, especially high alpha-carotene intake, significantly reduces the risk of ovarian cancer, especially in postmenopausal women.

For women who have not yet reached the menopause, achieving a high lycopene intake was important in reducing the risk of ovarian cancer.

Cramer explained to Reuters Health: "Even though this data is still preliminary and needs to be confirmed, women might want to consider increasing carotenoids in their diet."

"Women should have at least five servings of carrots per week - five carrots - and two half-cup servings of tomato sauce per week," he added.