According to an article recently published in the Annals of Oncology, people consuming fiber from vegetables and fruits, as opposed to fiber from grain sources, have significantly lower rates of laryngeal cancer.
The larynx is a short passageway located below the pharynx in the neck. The larynx houses the vocal cords, which make sound when air passes through them. Approximately 10,000 Americans are diagnosed with laryngeal cancer every year. This cancer, classified as a type of head and neck cancer, may be treated with radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and/or surgery. Many surgeries for laryngeal cancer result in removal of the voice cords.
One important goal of cancer research is to identify environmental risk factors for different types of cancer. Some factors such as diet, exercise, pollution, and stress have been associated with a higher incidence of specific cancers. Conversely, other factors have been associated with a lower incidence of certain cancers. Researchers continue to evaluate environmental factors that may either increase or decrease the risk of developing certain types of cancer so that better strategies for prevention and/or screening can be produced and implemented.
Several clinical trials have reported that fruits, vegetables, and whole grains appear linked to lower levels of laryngeal cancer. However, which types of dietary fiber confer the most protection is unknown. Italian researchers conducted a study involving 527 laryngeal cancer patients and 1,297 cancer-free patients staying in the same hospital together. All patients answered food-frequency questionnaires, describing what types of food they ate and how often they ate them.
Overall, patients with the lowest levels of fiber intake were 70% more likely to develop laryngeal cancer than patients with the highest fiber levels. Patients getting a large quantity of their fiber from vegetables were 80% less likely to have laryngeal cancer, while patients consuming large quantities of fruit were 50% less likely to develop laryngeal cancer. Fiber from grain sources did not confer any protection from laryngeal cancer.
Researchers cannot explain how fiber lowers risk of laryngeal cancer. Nonetheless, they recommended eating more fruits and vegetables, and cutting back on refined breads, to reduce one’s overall risk of developing cancer.
Reference: Pelicchi C, Talamini R, Levi F, et al. Fibre intake and laryngeal cancer risk.
Annals of Oncology. 2003;14:162-7.