Cancer Causes & Control

, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 1157–1165 | Cite as

Consumption of fruit, vegetables, and other food groups and the risk of nasopharyngeal carcinoma

  • Jerry Polesel
  • Diego Serraino
  • Eva Negri
  • Luigi Barzan
  • Emanuela Vaccher
  • Maurizio Montella
  • Antonella Zucchetto
  • Werner Garavello
  • Silvia Franceschi
  • Carlo La Vecchia
  • Renato Talamini
Original paper



The role of dietary habits in the etiology of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) has been extensively investigated in high-incidence areas, but evidence is scanty in low-incidence populations. This study aimed to investigate the relationship between NPC risk and a wide range of food groups in the Italian population.


We conducted a hospital-based case–control study in Italy on 198, histologically confirmed, NPC cases of Caucasian ethnicity, aged 18–76 years. Controls were 594 Caucasian cancer-free patients admitted to general hospitals for acute conditions. Odds ratios (ORs) and the corresponding confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated through logistic regression, adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics, tobacco smoking, alcohol drinking, and energy intake.


Elevated vegetable consumption was inversely related to NPC risk (OR for highest vs. lower quartile = 0.51; 95 % CI 0.29–0.90). The association was particularly strong for yellow- or red-pigmented vegetables (OR = 0.31; 95 % CI 0.18–0.54), and this effect was stronger among never smokers (OR = 0.18; 95 % CI 0.06–0.55) than among ever smokers (OR = 0.37; 95 % CI 0.19–0.71). Increased NPC risk emerged for elevated eggs consumption (OR = 2.50; 95 % CI 1.44–4.32; p-trend <0.01). No significant associations emerged between NPC risk and consumption of cereals, meat, fish, dairy products, and sweets.


The study findings show that, also in low-risk populations, vegetable consumption is a protective factor against NPC. The stronger effect for yellow- or red-pigmented vegetables is in agreement with the inverse association reported for carotenoids intake.


Nasopharyngeal carcinoma Dietary habits Food groups Vegetables Fruit 



This work was supported by a grant from A.I.R.C. (Italian Association for Cancer Research). The authors wish to thank Mrs. O. Volpato for coordination of data collection and L. Mei for editorial assistance. We are also deeply grateful to Dr. Emilia De Santis for the revision of the histopathological diagnoses; Drs. Giovanni Franchin (Radiation Oncology Div., Centro di Riferimento Oncologico, Aviano) for cases ascertainment; and Drs. G. Chiara (1st General Surgery Dept., General Hospital, Pordenone), G. Tosolini (2nd General Surgery Dept., General Hospital, Pordenone), L. Forner (Eye Diseases Dept., General Hospital, Pordenone), A. Mele (Hand Surgery and Microsurgery Dept., General Hospital, Pordenone), and E. Trevisanutto (Dermatology Dept., General Hospital, Pordenone) for helping in enrollment of control patients.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jerry Polesel
    • 1
  • Diego Serraino
    • 1
  • Eva Negri
    • 2
  • Luigi Barzan
    • 3
  • Emanuela Vaccher
    • 4
  • Maurizio Montella
    • 5
  • Antonella Zucchetto
    • 1
    • 8
  • Werner Garavello
    • 6
  • Silvia Franceschi
    • 7
  • Carlo La Vecchia
    • 2
    • 8
  • Renato Talamini
    • 1
  1. 1.Unit of Epidemiology and BiostatisticsCentro di Riferimento OncologicoI, IRCCSAvianoItaly
  2. 2.Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche “Mario Negri”, IRCCSMilanItaly
  3. 3.Department of Head and Neck SurgeryAzienda Ospedaliera “Santa Maria degli Angeli”PordenoneItaly
  4. 4.Division of Medical Oncology A, Centro di Riferimento OncologicoIRCCSAvianoItaly
  5. 5.Unit of EpidemiologyIstituto Tumori “Fondazione Pascale”, IRCCSNaplesItaly
  6. 6.Clinica Otorinolaringoiatrica DNTBUniversità degli Studi di Milano BicoccaMilanItaly
  7. 7.International Agency for Research on CancerLyonFrance
  8. 8.Department of Clinical Sciences and Community HealthUniversità degli Studi di MilanoMilanItaly

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