The role of diet and specific micronutrients in the etiology of oral carcinoma

Cancer. 2002 Jun 1;94(11):2981-8. doi: 10.1002/cncr.10560.


Background: Carcinoma of the oral cavity is one of the most common cancers worldwide. Tobacco smoking and the consumption of alcoholic beverages are significant risk factors but to the authors' knowledge the role of nutrition is not adequately understood. The authors undertook an epidemiologic study of oral carcinoma occurring in Greece, where tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption are common but the incidence of the disease is among the lowest reported in Europe.

Methods: One hundred six patients with histologically confirmed incident oral carcinoma and an equal number of control subjects matched for age and gender were studied. Dietary information was assessed through a validated extensive food frequency questionnaire and the data were analyzed using conditional logistic regression.

Results: After adjustment for energy intake, tobacco smoking, and alcohol consumption, there was evidence that the consumption of cereals, fruits, dairy products, and added lipids (which in Greece are represented mostly by olive oil) was found to be associated inversely with the risk of oral carcinoma. Only with respect to meat and meat products was there adequate evidence of a positive association with the risk of oral carcinoma. Among the micronutrients studied, riboflavin, magnesium, and iron appeared to be correlated inversely with the disease.

Conclusions: Fruits, cereals, dairy products, and olive oil appear to convey protection against oral carcinoma and their effects may be mediated through higher intakes of riboflavin, iron, and magnesium. 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.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Body Mass Index
  • Caffeine / adverse effects
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Diet*
  • Female
  • Greece / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Micronutrients*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Mouth Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Mouth Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Oral Hygiene
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tobacco / adverse effects


  • Micronutrients
  • Caffeine