Dietary Nitrates, Nitrites, and Nitrosamines Intake and the Risk of Gastric Cancer: A Meta-Analysis

Nutrients. 2015 Dec 1;7(12):9872-95. doi: 10.3390/nu7125505.


The potential associations between dietary consumption of nitrates, nitrites, and nitrosamines and gastric cancer risk have been investigated by several studies, but yielded inconclusive results. We conducted a meta-analysis to provide a quantitative assessment of their relationships. Relevant articles were identified by a systematic literature searching of PubMed and Embase databases prior to August 2015. Random-effects models were employed to pool the relative risks. A total of 22 articles consisting of 49 studies-19 studies for nitrates, 19 studies for nitrites, and 11 studies for N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA)-were included. The summary relative risk of stomach cancer for the highest categories, compared with the lowest, was 0.80 (95% confidence interval (CI), 0.69-0.93) for dietary nitrates intake, 1.31 (95% CI, 1.13-1.52) for nitrites, and 1.34 (95% CI, 1.02-1.76) for NDMA (p for heterogeneity was 0.015, 0.013 and <0.001, respectively). The study type was found as the main source of heterogeneity for nitrates and nitrites. The heterogeneity for NDMA could not be eliminated completely through stratified analysis. Although significant associations were all observed in case-control studies, the cohort studies still showed a slight trend. The dose-response analysis indicated similar results as well. High nitrates intake was associated with a weak but statistically significant reduced risk of gastric cancer. Whereas increased consumption of nitrites and NDMA seemed to be risk factors for cancer. Due to the lack of uniformity for exposure assessment across studies, further prospective researches are warranted to verify these findings.

Keywords: diet; gastric cancer; nitrates; nitrites; nitrosamines.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diet
  • Humans
  • Meat / adverse effects*
  • Meat / analysis
  • Nitrates / adverse effects*
  • Nitrates / chemistry
  • Nitrites / adverse effects*
  • Nitrites / chemistry
  • Nitrosamines / adverse effects*
  • Nitrosamines / chemistry
  • Stomach Neoplasms / etiology*


  • Nitrates
  • Nitrites
  • Nitrosamines