Background: A number of studies have reported that increased consumption of natural products reduced the risk of cancer. Our previous case-control studies have shown a significant reduction in the risk of cancer development among those who regularly consumed ginseng. We conducted a prospective cohort study to evaluate the preventive effect of ginseng against cancer on a population residing in a ginseng cultivation area on the basis of the result of case-control studies.
Methods: This study was conducted in Kangwha-eup from August 1987 to December 1992. We studied 4634 people over 40 years old who completed a questionnaire on ginseng intake. In an attempt to obtain detailed information about ginseng intake, we asked them to specify their age at initial intake, their frequency and duration of ginseng intake, the kind of ginseng, etc. Multiple logistic regression was used to estimate relative risks (RR) when controlling simultaneously for covariates.
Results: Ginseng consumers had a decreased risk (RR = 0.40, 95% confidence interval [CI] : 0.28-0.56) compared with non-consumers. On the type of ginseng, the RR was 0.31 (95% CI: 0.13-0.74) for fresh ginseng extract consumers and 0.34 (95% CI: 0.20-0.53) for consumers of multiple combinations. There was no cancer death among 24 red ginseng consumers. There was a decreased risk with a rise in the frequency of ginseng intake, showing a dose-response relationship. The RR of ginseng consumers were 0.33 (95% CI: 0.18-0.57) in gastric cancer and 0.30 (95% CI : 0.14-0.65) in lung cancer. Among ginseng preparations, fresh ginseng extract consumers were significantly associated with a decreased risk of gastric cancer (RR = 0.33, 95% CI: 0.12-0.88).
Conclusions: These results strongly suggest that Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer has non-organ specific preventive effect against cancer, providing support for the previous case-control studies.