Olive oil and human cancer: an assessment of the evidence

Prev Med. Mar-Apr 1997;26(2):181-90. doi: 10.1006/pmed.1996.9977.


Background: We have attempted to summarize the evidence concerning the association of olive oil intake with cancer risk in humans.

Methods: We reviewed all the studies that met the following criteria: (1) they have directly examined olive oil in the context of an extensive food frequency questionnaire or have evaluated the role of monounsaturated fat in populations of Mediterranean countries where a large fraction of monounsaturated fat originates from olive oil and (2) they have analyzed the data with explicit or implicit control for energy intake to accommodate the likely confounding influence of caloric consumption and to account to a certain extent for differential completeness of reporting between cases and controls. Ecologic studies were also considered and relevant experimental data were invoked.

Results: With respect to breast cancer, there is converging evidence for a protective effect, although the data are not definitive. For other cancer types, the overall epidemiologic evidence, although promising, is quantitatively limited and qualitatively suboptimal.

Conclusions: The issue is of major public health importance and deserves additional study.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated / adverse effects*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mediterranean Region / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Olive Oil
  • Plant Oils / adverse effects*
  • Rats
  • Research Design / standards


  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated
  • Olive Oil
  • Plant Oils