An ecological study of diet and lung cancer in the South Pacific

Int J Cancer. 1995 Sep 27;63(1):18-23. doi: 10.1002/ijc.2910630105.


Incidence rates of lung cancer have been markedly lower for Fiji than for other South Pacific countries, despite similar rates of smoking. We conducted population-based surveys in several island nations of the South Pacific (Cook Islands, Fiji, Tahiti and New Caledonia) and used data from Caucasian, Japanese, Hawaiian, Filipino and Chinese controls in a case-control study of lung cancer in Hawaii to investigate the role of diet in explaining differences in lung cancer incidence among 20 ethnic-sex groups. In a stepwise linear regression of lung cancer rates on smoking, diet and other variables, smoking, as expected, explained the majority (61%) of the variability in incidence. However, several dietary components also explained significant portions of the variance. Lutein intake explained 14% and vitamin E intake, cholesterol intake and height explained 5-7% each of the remaining variance in incidence. Associations with lutein and vitamin E were inverse, whereas those with cholesterol and height were direct. Dietary beta-carotene intake was not associated with lung cancer incidence. These ecological data provide evidence for a protective effect of lutein against lung cancer. A protective effect of dietary vitamin E and a risk-enhancing effect of dietary cholesterol are also suggested.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cotinine / blood
  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Male
  • Pacific Islands
  • Regression Analysis
  • Smoking
  • Vegetables


  • Cotinine