Macronutrients, vitamins and minerals intake and risk of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma: a case-control study in Iran

Background

Although Iran is a high-risk region for esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC), dietary factors that may contribute to this high incidence have not been thoroughly studied. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of macronutrients, vitamins and minerals on the risk of ESCC.

Methods

In this hospital-based case-control study, 47 cases with incident ESCC and 96 controls were interviewed and usual dietary intakes were collected using a validated food frequency questionnaire. Data were modeled through unconditional multiple logistic regression to estimate odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI), controlling for age, sex, gastrointestinal reflux, body mass index, smoking history (status, intensity and duration), physical activity, and education.

Results

ESCC cases consumed significantly more hot foods and beverages and fried and barbecued meals, compared to the controls (p < 0.05). After adjusting for potential confounders, the risk of ESCC increased significantly in the highest tertiles of saturated fat [OR:2.88,95%CI:1.15-3.08], cholesterol [OR:1.53, 95%CI: 1.41-4.13], discretionary calorie [OR:1.51, 95%CI: 1.06-3.84], sodium [OR:1.49,95%CI:1.12-2.89] and total fat intakes [OR:1.48, 95%CI:1.09-3.04]. In contrast, being in the highest tertile of carbohydrate, dietary fiber and (n-3) fatty acid intake reduced the ESCC risk by 78%, 71% and 68%, respectively. The most cancer-protective effect was observed for the combination of high folate and vitamin E intakes (OR: 0.02, 95%CI: 0.00-0.87; p < 0.001). Controls consumed 623.5 times higher selenium, 5.48 times as much β-carotene and 1.98 times as much α-tocopherol as the amount ESCC cases consumed.

Conclusion

This study suggests that high intake of nutrients primarily found in plant-based foods is associated with a reduced esophageal cancer risk. Some nutrients such as folate, vitamin E and selenium might play major roles in the etiology of ESCC and their status may eventually be used as an epidemiological marker for esophageal cancer in Iran, and perhaps other high-risk regions.