WELLINGTON (Bernama) -- Women might be able to reduce the risk of breast cancer by eating more blueberries, according to a New Zealand research released on Tuesday.

A Massey University study, in which blueberries were fed to animals as part of their diet, found that they had a 50 per cent lower incidence rate of mammary tumors, reported China's Xinhua news agency.

"Blueberries contain phytochemicals called anthocyanins, which may be responsible for the health benefits of blueberries," Dr Janyawat Vuthijumnonk said in a statement.

"They reduce free radicals in our system, decrease new blood vessel formation, and increase the number of beneficial bacteria - all elements that help in the fight against breast cancer."

Tumors found in animals that received blueberries with fibre included (in pomace form), were smaller and less aggressive than in animals without blueberry consumption, or in animals that received just blueberry juice.

"We also found circulating estrogen - the steroid hormone, which plays a key role in breast cancer promotion - was lower in animals that consumed the blueberry pomace-supplemented diet," said Vuthijumnonk.

"This shows that not only phytochemicals in blueberries play a key role for their health benefits, but the fibre in the fruits was also shown to play an important part."

In New Zealand, breast cancer accounted for more than 20 per cent of all registered cancers, and is the most expensive to treat.

Vuthijumnonk said that each animal responded to environmental stress differently, so she could not definitively say that eating blueberries would prevent breast cancer in humans.

"But we are able to say blueberry consumption may lower the risk of developing breast cancer at the population level," she said.