The study spearheaded by Japan's health ministry monitored some 39,000 men aged 45 to 74 over about eight years, during which time 116 developed the type of cancer called esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).
Esophageal SCC is a common type of cancer among Japanese men, strongly linked to smoking and drinking alcohol, according to the study led by Shoichiro Tsugane, chief of the Epidemiology and Prevention Division at Japan's National Cancer Center.
The study divided men into three groups and found that those who ate the most fruit and vegetables had nearly half the risk of developing esophageal SCC compared with the group with the least vegetable-based diet.
"An increase in consumption of total fruit and vegetables by 100 grams (3.5 ounces) per day was associated with an 11 percent decrease in the incidence of esophageal SCC," the researchers said in a statement.
The study concluded that vegetables, especially the so-called cruciferous family of vegetables that includes radishes and cabbages, may help prevent esophageal SCC.
A diet rich in fruit and vegetables would lower the risk of developing this type of cancer to nearly one-third, even among men who smoke and drink, it said.
But the study warned that fruits and veggies were no substitute for the health benefits of quitting smoking or drinking.
A scientific study at Britain's Institute of Food Research showed last month that men who ate more broccoli, one of the cruciferous vegetables, reduced their risk of prostate cancer and other chronic diseases.