Diet and lung cancer 20+ years later: more questions than answers?

Int J Cancer. 1997;Suppl 10:22-9. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0215(1997)10+<22::aid-ijc7>;2-b.


A critical review of epidemiological studies on diet and lung cancer over the last 20+ years has not provided overwhelming evidence that higher consumption of vegetables, fruit, low-fat/low-cholesterol foods or such micronutrients as carotenoids, selenium and vitamins A, C or E is associated with reduced lung cancer risk. Results from case-control studies have been more positive, with about one half showing fruit and vegetables or their associated micronutrients to be associated with reduced risk. However, most results from cohort and serum micronutrient studies, which avoid the problems of inaccurate accounting of diet and recall bias, were statistically insignificant. Moreover, although most studies were conducted on white male smokers in North America and Europe, the few studies which found significant contrary trends were among subjects of different backgrounds, i.e., black American males and Chinese women in China. Since male smokers vs. nonsmokers in Europe, North America and Japan have been shown in other studies to be lower consumers of fruit/vegetables, and less likely to pursue "perceived healthier lifestyles," the possibility that some of the epidemiological findings on diet and lung cancer are artifactually due to inadequate adjustment for behavioral correlates of smoking and health seekers in a particular society must be considered. This is especially true with recent chemoprevention trials showing higher lung cancer incidence and deaths among consumers of beta-carotene supplements vs. placebo.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Diet* / adverse effects
  • Dietary Fats
  • Fruit
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Vegetables
  • Vitamin A
  • beta Carotene


  • Dietary Fats
  • beta Carotene
  • Vitamin A
  • Ascorbic Acid