People at higher risk of oral cancer, such as heavy smokers and drinkers, may benefit from a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, suggest researchers.
A team from Spain studied the role played by dietary habits in cases of oral and oropharyngeal cancer, a major public health problem in the country.
While tobacco and alcohol have been identified as the two major risk factors for oral cancer in most western populations, other risk factors such as diets low in fruits and vegetables, have never been assessed in Spain, they noted.
A multicentric case-control study was conducted in three areas of Spain (Barcelona, Granada and Seville) between 1996 and 1999. The team investigated 375 patients (71 women), with cancer of the oral cavity or oropharynx, and a control group of 375 subjects (71 women) admitted to hospitals for conditions unrelated to smoking or alcohol drinking. Data was analysed using multivariate logistic regression procedures.
After allowing for education, tobacco and alcohol use, a significant inverse association with the risk of oral and oropharyngeal cancer was found for total consumption of total green vegetables and total fruit with significant trends in risk.
Furthermore, the researchers found that the protective effect of each of these food items was consistently larger among current smokers and among heavy alcohol drinkers.
"This study provides further support to the beneficial effect of high intake of vegetables and fruits on the risk of developing cancers of the oral cavity and oropharynx in Spain, particularly among current smokers and heavy alcohol drinkers," concluded the authors.
Full findings are reported in this month's European Journal of Cancer Prevention.