Dietary Habits Associated With Esophageal
Cancer By Rosalie Marion Bliss
June 13, 2002
Scientists funded by the Agricultural Research Service recently
studied dietary habits that might ward off esophageal cancer, a form so deadly
only about 12 percent of those diagnosed survive five years. Other studies have
found a strong association between esophageal cancer and acid reflux disease or
gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which affects 7 million Americans
The ARS-funded analysis was overseen by Katherine Tucker,
director of the Dietary Assessment
Research Program at the Jean Mayer
USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in
Boston, Mass., and included researchers from the
National Cancer Institute. The scientists
looked at consumption habits of about 700 people who were asked to recall how
frequently they ate 54 specific food items. Their responses ultimately formed
the basis of six dietary patterns identified.
The dietary patterns were labeled healthy,
high meat, high salty snacks, high dessert,
high milk, and high white bread. The
healthy dietary pattern tended to have the lowest risk of
esophageal cancer. That diet was high in fruits and vegetables and whole
grains. Foods eaten in that group were good sources of carotenoids, vitamin C,
dietary fiber and B vitamins.
The USDA Food Guide Pyramid suggests two to three servings of
protein each day from a varied group that includes poultry, fish, beans, eggs
and nuts, as well as meats. But those in the high-meat pattern
consumed about three servings per day of red or processed meats alone. Those
whose diet fell in the high-meat pattern--who also had lower fruit
and vegetable intakes--had a 3.6 times higher risk of esophageal cancer than
did those in the healthy dietary pattern. They also had an almost
three times higher risk for stomach cancer.
While grouping data by patterns is a subjective science, the
researchers found that similar patterns emerged during other investigations
involving various populations. Still, larger confirmational studies are needed.
The research was published in the January issue of the
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
ARS is the chief scientific research agency in the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.