Oral cancer and dietary nutrients.





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According the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 30,000 new cases of mouth and pharyngeal cancers are diagnosed every year and 8,000 yearly deaths are alone due to mouth cancer. This type of cancer can be caused by smoking, excessive drinking, and poor dietary habits, but a family history of leukoplakia or erythroplakia have also been linked to a high risk. Oral carcinoma usually occurs in individuals over the age of 45 years, but it can appear at any age. Symptoms can include a change in voice, lumps in the mouth or throat, ear pain, or difficulty swallowing among others.

Recently, an epidemiologic study of oral cancer was conducted in Greece. This country was chosen for the popularity of smoking and drinking, as well as its low incidence of these cancers. This study matched 106 cases of mouth cancer and 106 cases of healthy controls. Using a food frequency questionnaire, dietary information on all those involved was obtained and evaluated. The results were adjusted for energy intake, smoking, and alcohol consumption. The outcome demonstrated that the intake of cereals, fruits, dairy products, and added lipids (olive oil) was associated inversely with the risk of oral carcinoma. In addition, it appeared that magnesium, riboflavin, and iron were linked with a decreased risk of cancer. The authors of this study concluded that, "The low incidence of oral carcinoma reported in Greece may be explained in part by the higher consumption of the food groups and micronutrients that appear to protect against the disease."1


1. Petridou E, et al. The role of diet and specific micronutrients in the etiology of oral carcinoma. Cancer. Jun 2002;94:2981-2988.