Dietary determinants of epithelial ovarian cancer: a review of the epidemiologic literature

Mandy Schulz, Petra H Lahmann, Elio Riboli, Heiner Boeing
Nutrition and Cancer 2004, 50 (2): 120-40
Ovarian cancer is commonly a fatal disease and, despite advances in screening and treatment, the lack of understanding of the underlying etiology has limited prevention strategies. This article reviews the epidemiologic literature on the relationship between consumption of major food groups and the risk of epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC). We identified 7 cohort studies and 27 case-control studies of consumption of major food groups (fruits and vegetables, meats, eggs, fish, dairy products, grains, fats and oils) and EOC risk. Vegetable but not fruit consumption was found to possibly exhibit beneficial effects on the risk of EOC, whereas high meat consumption may be associated with an increased risk. A protective effect on risk of EOC for whole-grain food consumption as well as for consumption of low-fat milk is suggested by the results of the studies. However, evidence for associations of foods such as fish, grains, milk products, and fats and oils with EOC risk is limited and inconsistent, and further examination of these dietary determinants of EOC are warranted. In conclusion, a typical Western diet, which is high in meats and low in vegetables, may be positively associated with ovarian cancer incidence. However, the association between specific dietary factors and EOC risk remains unclear and merits further examination. In particular, future studies need to address the effect of milk products according to fat content and possible biological mechanisms to explain observed effects.

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