More fruit and vegetables: less chance of cancer

Increase in oral cavity cancer

Oral cavity cancer is the most common form of head and neck cancer in the Netherlands, with more than 1,000 new cases per year. Although oral cavity cancer is more common in men than in women, the number of new cases per year is increasing more strongly in women. In 10 years time, the number of new oral cavity cancers in women has increased by more than 45%. Among men, the number of cases increased by 16%.

Link with fruit and vegetables

People who eat a lot of fruit and vegetables have a lower risk of various forms of head and neck cancer. This connection is strongest for oral cavity cancer, according to the Dutch Cohort Study (NLCS), which contains data on more than 120,000 Dutch people between the ages of 55 and 69 who have been monitored since 1986.

It is therefore worrying that, according to the most recent Food Consumption Survey, only 6% of men and 10% of women eat the recommended daily intake of fruit. Only 5% of all men and women eat enough vegetables.

Vitamins from food

The researchers not only examined the relationship between fruit and vegetables and the various forms of head and neck cancer, but also the role of certain nutrients. The research shows that a higher intake of vitamin C from food is associated with a lower risk of oral cavity cancer and other forms of head and neck cancer. There are also indications that vitamin E is associated with these cancers. It concerns vitamins from food, not from supplements.

Advice

The World Cancer Research Fund advises to prevent oral cavity cancer by opting for a healthy diet with lots of fruit and vegetables. The cancer prevention fund provides guidelines for eating 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. It is also important not to smoke, not to drink alcohol or to limit this to 1 glass per day for women and 2 glasses per day for men.

About head and neck cancer

Head and neck cancer is number 7 on the list of the 10 most common cancers in men in the Netherlands. For women it is number 9. It is known that alcohol consumption, smoking and infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV) are risk factors for head and neck cancer.

Head and neck cancer includes, among other things:

Oral cavity cancer
Throat cancer
Cave head cancer