Nutrients Reduce Risk of Some Cancers
The American Cancer Society estimates that this year almost 22,000 Americans will be diagnosed with stomach cancer and over 13,000 with esophageal cancer. While some cancers respond well to conventional treatment, esophageal and stomach cancers generally have a poor prognosis, with five-year survival rates varying from 10 to 21%. Fortunately, some encouraging new research published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention,1 has shown that eating a diet high in certain nutrients may reduce the risk of developing stomach and esophageal cancer.
This study evaluated the nutrient intake of 1,095 men with stomach or esophageal cancer and 687 healthy men, aged 30 to 79 years, over a two-year time period. Researchers evaluated total fat, protein, and carbohydrates, as well as vitamin and mineral intake. Participants were also questioned about supplement intake: multivitamins, vitamins A, C, E, iron, and calcium, though quantities of each supplement were not ascertained. Nutritional surveys revealed that higher dietary intake of fiber, polyunsaturated fat, vegetable protein, beta-carotene, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and vitamin E were all associated with a lower risk of stomach and esophageal cancers. Of all nutrients studied, fiber had the most profound effect on lowering risk.
When the diet was high in total protein, animal protein, cholesterol, or vitamin B12, stomach and esophageal cancer risk increased. The link between vitamin B12 and these cancers is not clear, but it is likely that vitamin B12 is not a risk factor itself, but rather a marker for high animal protein intake, since it is found almost exclusively in animal products. No association was found with other vitamins or minerals, including vitamins B1 and B2, niacin, and zinc. With regard to supplement use, only vitamin C was found to reduce the risk of stomach and esophageal cancer.
Many risk factors for stomach and esophageal cancer have been well established, including smoking, heavy alcohol use, consuming pickled foods, esophageal reflux, obesity, and use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. One can reduce the risk of these two cancers by making appropriate lifestyle decisions and abstaining from unhealthy habits. Eating a diet rich in vegetables and plant-based protein appears to provide extra protection as well. While supplementing with vitamin C may help prevent stomach and esophageal cancer, it is not clear whether supplementing with other vitamins and minerals will produce the same benefit. More research is needed to clarify this issue.
1. Mayne ST, Risch HA, Dubrow R, et al. Nutrient intake and risk of subtypes of esophageal and gastric cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2001;10:1055–62.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of Garlic and Cholesterol: Everything You Need to Know (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice in Westport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
Copyright © 2001 Healthnotes, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.