There has been considerable interest in the role of carotenoids in the chemoprevention of cancer. However, the protective effect of carotenoids on breast cancer has been inconclusive. To investigate whether intake of lycopene, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, and lutein/zeaxanthin is inversely associated with breast cancer risk, a case-control study was conducted in China during 2004-2005. The cases were 122 female patients aged 24-87 years with histopathologically confirmed breast cancer. 632 healthy women age-matched were randomly recruited from outpatient clinics. Habitual dietary intake and lifestyle were collected by face-to-face interview using a validated and reliable food frequency questionnaire. The USDA nutrient composition database was used to calculate intake of the specific carotenoids. Unconditional logistic regression analyses were used to estimate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs), accounting for age, locality, education, body mass index, smoking, passive smoking, physical activity, number of children breastfed, menopausal status, oral contraceptive use, biopsy-confirmed benign breast diseases, family history of breast cancer, and total energy intake. Compared with the highest versus lowest quartile of intake, the adjusted ORs were 0.26 (95% CI 0.14-0.46) for lycopene, 0.38 (95% CI 0.21-0.71) for beta-carotene, 0.43 (95% CI 0.23-0.82) for beta-cryptoxanthin, and 0.37 (95% CI 0.20-0.68) for total carotenoids, with statistically significant tests for trend. There was no association with breast cancer for alpha-carotene and lutein/zeaxanthin. It is concluded that higher intake of lycopene, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin is associated to a lower risk of breast cancer among Chinese women. More research to examine the relationship between carotenoids and breast cancer risk is warranted.