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OBJECTIVE: We have examined the role of dietary patterns and specific dietary nutrients in the etiology of lung cancer among non-smokers using a multicenter case-control study. METHODS: 506 non-smoking incident lung cancer cases were identified in the eight centers along with 1045 non-smoking controls. Dietary habits were assessed using a quantitative food-frequency questionnaire administered by personal interview. Based on this information, measures of total carotenoids, beta-carotene and retinol nutrient intake were estimated. RESULTS: Protective effects against lung cancer were observed for high consumption of tomatoes, (odds ratio (OR) = 0.5; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.4-0.6), lettuce (OR = 0.6; 95% CI 0.3-1.2), carrots (OR = 0.8; 95% CI 0.5-1.1), margarine (OR = 0.7; 95% CI 0.5-0.8) and cheese (OR = 0.7; 95% CI 0.5-1.0). Only weak protective effects were observed for high consumption of all carotenoids (OR = 0.8; 95% CI 0.6-1.0), beta-carotene (OR = 0.8; 95% CI 0.6-1.1) and retinol (OR = 0.9; 95% CI 0.7-1.1). Protective effects for high levels of fruit consumption were restricted to squamous cell carcinoma (OR = 0.7; 95% CI 0.4-1.2) and small cell carcinoma (OR = 0.7; 95% CI 0.4-1.2), and were not apparent for adenocarcinoma (OR = 0.9; 95% CI 0.6-1.3). Similarly, any excess risk associated with meat, butter and egg consumption was restricted to squamous and small cell carcinomas, but was not detected for adenocarcinomas. CONCLUSIONS: This evidence suggests that the public health significance of increasing vegetable consumption among the bottom third of the population would include a reduction in the incidence of lung cancer among lifetime non-smokers by at least 25%, and possibly more. A similar protective effect for increased fruit consumption may be present for squamous cell and small cell lung carcinomas.

Original publication




Journal article


Cancer Causes Control

Publication Date





49 - 58


Adenocarcinoma, Adult, Aged, Carcinoma, Small Cell, Carcinoma, Squamous Cell, Carotenoids, Case-Control Studies, Diet, Female, Humans, Incidence, Lung Neoplasms, Male, Middle Aged, Public Health, Smoking, Vegetables, Vitamin A, beta Carotene