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Diets Rich in Fruits and Vegetables Reduce the Risk of Esophageal Cancer

by Dr. C.H. Weaver M.D. (08/2018)

According to results of a study recently published in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention, diets rich in fruits and vegetables appear to decrease the risk of the development of esophageal and stomach cancers.

The esophagus is the muscular tube that conveys food from the back of the throat to the stomach. Most cancers of the upper two thirds of the esophagus arise from squamous cells and are called esophageal squamous cell carcinoma. Cancers of the lower esophagus most often arise from columnar epithelium cells and are called esophageal adenocarcinomas. Cancer in the columnar epithelium cells lining the stomach is the most common form of stomach cancer and is known as gastric adenocarcinoma. There has been a large increase in the number of adenocarcinoma cases, especially those occurring in the esophagus or cardia (the junction of the esophagus with the stomach) over the last 30 years and researchers are investigating possible explanations including the influence of diet.

In a recent study, researchers interviewed 1,095 patients with four subtypes of esophageal and gastric cancer regarding their nutrient intake. The patients had esophageal adenocarcinoma, adenocarcinoma of the gastric cardia, esophageal squamous cell carcinoma or non-cardia gastric adenocarcinoma. The researchers then directly compared the dietary intake with that of 687 healthy individuals.

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Results indicated that healthy individuals had significantly higher levels of fiber, beta-carotene, folate, Vitamin C and B6 in their diet than patients with cancer. In contrast, patients with esophageal or gastric cancer had significantly higher levels of cholesterol, animal protein and Vitamin B12 in their diets.

Dietary fat was significantly associated with risk of only one type of cancer, esophageal adenocarcinoma. However, the total fat intake and intake of saturated fat each doubled the risk for this type of cancer. In addition, saturated fat also raised the risk of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma and gastric cardia adenocarcinoma. Intake of salt and nitrites increased an individual’s risk of noncardia gastric cancer, while use of a Vitamin C supplement at least once a week for 6 months or longer lowered it.

The results of this study suggest that a high intake of nutrients found primarily in fruits and vegetables may lower the risk of the development of esophageal and gastric cancers, while high intake of nutrients found primarily in foods of animal origin appears to increase the risk of esophageal and gastric cancers. These results suggest that any strategy to prevent esophageal or gastric cancers should emphasize increased consumption of foods of plant origin. (

Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention, Vol10, pp1055-1062, 2001)

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