Low Serum Carotenoids Are Associated with Self-Reported Cognitive Dysfunction and Inflammatory Markers in Breast Cancer Survivors
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Background: Dietary carotenoids may exert anti-inflammatory activities to reduce inflammation-driven cognitive impairments during cancer and cancer treatment. Our objective was to explore if cognitive function in breast cancer survivors (BCS) differs by serum carotenoid concentrations, and if blood carotenoids concentrations are associated with reduced systemic inflammation. Methods: Objective cognitive function and perceived cognitive impairment of 29 BCS and 38 controls were assessed cross-sectionally with the National Institutes of Health Toolbox Cognition Battery and The Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Cognitive Function Questionnaire, respectively. Serum carotenoid and inflammatory marker (sTNF-RII, IL-6, IL-1ra, CRP) concentrations were measured. Results: Low-carotenoid BCS had more cognitive complaints compared to the low-carotenoid controls (Mdiff = −43.0, p < 0.001) and high-carotenoid controls (Mdiff = −44.5, p < 0.001). However, the cognitive complaints of high-carotenoid BCS were intermediate to and not different than the low-carotenoid BCS, or low- or high-carotenoid controls. BCS performed similarly to controls on all objective cognitive measures. Multiple linear regression, controlling for age and body mass index (BMI), demonstrated an inverse association between serum carotenoid concentrations and pro-inflammatory sTNFR-II (β = 0.404, p = 0.005) and IL-6 concentrations (β = −0.35, p = 0.001), but not IL-1ra or CRP. Conclusions: Higher serum carotenoid concentrations may convey cognitive and anti-inflammatory benefits in BCS. Future research should identify dietary components and patterns that support cognitive health in cancer survivors.