Background: The findings of currently available studies are not consistent with regard to the association between the risk of cancer and ginseng consumption. Therefore, we aimed to evaluate this association by conducting a meta-analysis of different studies.
Methods: To systematically evaluate the effect of ginseng consumption on cancer incidence, six databases were searched, including PubMed, Ovid Technologies, Embase, The Cochrane Library, China National Knowledge Infrastructure, and Chinese VIP Information, from 1990 to 2014. Statistical analyses based on the protocol employed for a systematic review were conducted to calculate the summary relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs).
Results: We identified nine studies, including five cohort studies, three case-control studies, and one randomized controlled trial, evaluating the association between ginseng consumption and cancer risk; these studies involved 7,436 cases and 334,544 participants. The data from the meta-analysis indicated a significant 16% lower risk of developing cancer in patients who consumed ginseng (RR = 0.84, 95% CI = 0.76-0.92), with evidence of heterogeneity (p = 0.0007, I (2) = 70%). Stratified analyses suggested that the significant heterogeneity may result from the incidence data for gastric cancer that were included in this study. Publication bias also showed the same result as the stratified analyses. In addition, subgroup analyses for four specific types of cancer (colorectal cancer, lung cancer, gastric cancer, and liver cancer) were also performed. The summary RRs for ginseng intake versus no ginseng consumption were 0.77 for lung cancer, 0.83 for gastric cancer, 0.81 for liver cancer, and 0.77 for colorectal cancer.
Conclusion: The findings of this meta-analysis indicated that ginseng consumption is associated with a significantly decreased risk of cancer and that the effect is not organ specific.
Keywords: cancer; ginseng; meta-analysis.