Vegetable and fruit consumption and cancer risk

E. Negri, C. La Vecchia, S. Franceschi, B. D'Avanzo, F. Parazzini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The relationship between cancer risk and frequency of consumption of green vegetables and fruit has been analyzed using data from an integrated series of case-control studies conducted in northern Italy between 1983 and 1990. The overall dataset included the following histologically confirmed cancers: oral cavity and pharynx, 119; oesophagus, 294; stomach, 564; colon, 673; rectum, 406; liver, 258; gall-bladder, 41; pancreas, 303; larynx, 149; breast, 2,860; endometrium, 567; ovary, 742; prostate, 107; bladder, 365; kidney, 147; thyroid, 120; Hodgkin's disease, 72; non-Hodgkin lymphomas, 173; myelomas, 117; and a total of 6,147 controls admitted to hospital for acute non-neoplastic conditions, unrelated to long-term dietary modifications. Multivariate relative risks (RR) for subsequent tertiles of vegetable and fruit consumption were derived after allowance for age, sex, area of residence, education and smoking. For vegetables, there was a consistent pattern of protection for all epithelial cancers, with RRs in the upper tertile ranging from 0.2 for oesophagus, liver and larynx to 0.7 for breast. All the trends in risk were in the same direction and significant for all carcinomas except gallbladder. In contrast, no protection was afforded by high vegetable consumption against non-epithelial lymphoid neoplasms. With reference to fruit, strong inverse relationships were observed for cancers of the upper digestive and respiratory tract, with RRs in the upper tertile between 0.2 and 0.3 for oral cavity and pharynx, oesophagus and larynx relative to the lowest tertile. The lower the location of the tumour in the digestive tract, the weaker appeared to be the protection afforded. Significant inverse relationships were observed for liver, pancreas, prostate and urinary sites, but not for rectum, breast and female genital cancers or thyroid. No relationship emerged for lymphomas and myelomas. Even in the absence of a clear biological interpretation, the consistency and strength of the patterns observed indicate that, in this population, frequent green vegetable intake is associated with a substantial reduction of risk for several common epithelial cancers, and that fruit intake has a favourable effect, especially on upper digestive cancers and, probably, also on urinary tract neoplasms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)350-354
Number of pages5
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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