A high fiber diet may reduce one’s risk of head and neck cancer (HNC), according to research published in the International Journal of Cancer.1

HNC, which is diagnosed in more than 500,000 patients annually, is associated with tobacco- and alcohol-use, though vegetable and fruit intake are associated with a reduced risk of the disease.

The relationship between fiber intake and HNC was, however, previously underreported.

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For this pooled analysis, researchers evaluated data from the International Head and Neck Cancer Epidemiology (INHANCE) consortium to determine whether fiber intake affects an individual’s risk of HNC.

Ten case-control studies containing 5959 patients with HNC and 12,248 controls were identified from INHANCE. All patients had cancer of the oral cavity/pharynx and larynx.

Odds ratios were developed for quintiles of fiber intake, adjusted for energy as well as tobacco- and alcohol- use, age, sex, race, and education, among other factors.

The odds ratio of developing oral/pharyngeal HNC was 0.49 for the 5th vs the 1st quintile. While there was noted heterogeneity across the consulted studies, the association was mostly consistent after stratifying by covariates.

The authors noted that while fiber may reduce an individual’s glycemic load, reduce systemic inflammation, or prevent carcinogens from contact with upper digestive tract epithelia, these results might be explained by the fact that “dietary fiber may simply be an indicator of a better general life-style pattern.”

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The study suggests, however, that a “relatively” high fiber intake may reduce the risk of HNC. Further study is warranted.


  1. Kawakita, D, Lee YC, Turati F, et al. Dietary fiber intake and head and neck cancer risk: a pooled analysis in the International Head and Neck Cancer Epidemiology consortium. Int J Cancer. In press.