Individuals who enjoy diets rich in meat, cheese and whole milk may be at increased risk of developing cancer of the esophagus and the stomach. The rates of two types of cancer--gastric cardia and adenocarcinoma of the esophagus--have risen rapidly over the past 30 years. To investigate potential links between these and two other types of stomach and esophageal cancers and dietary factors, Dr. Susan T. Mayne from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and colleagues interviewed more than 1,000 patients and nearly 700 healthy people in three states.
Total fat intake and intake of saturated fat each doubled the risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma, the investigators found. Saturated fat also raised the risk of gastric cardia, which affects the upper part of the stomach, and another type of cancer of the esophagus--esophageal squamous cell carcinoma. Cholesterol, animal protein and vitamin B12, found primarily in animal products, were also associated with a higher risk of these cancers.
Intake of fiber, beta-carotene, folate, vitamin C and vitamin B6 were associated with a lower risk of all four cancer types studied. Use of a vitamin C supplement at least once a week for 6 or more months also showed a significant association with a lower risk of these cancers.