Background: The role of tobacco and alcohol consumption and the frequency of intake of a selected number of indicator foods as causes of cancer were investigated in a case-control study conducted in northern Italy.
Methods: One hundred two men with cancer of the tongue, 104 patients with cancer of the mouth, and 726 control subjects (the latter admitted to the hospital for acute nonneoplastic disease without respiratory illness) were interviewed.
Results: Similarly strong associations were observed with cigarette smoking (odds ratio [OR], 10.5 and 11.8 for current smokers versus never smokers in cancer of the tongue and mouth, respectively) and alcohol (OR, 3.4 and 3.0 for > or = 60 versus < or = 19 drinks/week). The risk conferred by pipe or cigar smoking, although based on only 12 smokers who did not smoke cigarettes, seemed, however, to be lower for cancer of the tongue (OR, 3.4) than cancer of the mouth (OR, 21.9). Selected indicator foods and beverages, including green vegetables, carrots, fresh fruits, whole-grain bread and pasta, coffee, and tea also affected the cancer risk similarly in the two sites. The beneficial influence of such foods and beverages seemed, however, to be more marked for cancer of the mouth than for cancer of the tongue.
Conclusions: This study suggested that, although none of the differences in the effects between cancer sites was statistically significant, tobacco from pipes and cigars and the cleansing effect of some foods of plant origin and nonalcoholic beverages may influence the risk of cancer of the tongue less strongly than the risk of cancer of the mouth.