Vitamin and carotenoid intake and risk of head-neck cancer subtypes in the Netherlands Cohort Study

L. de Munter, D.H.E. Maasland, P.A. van den Brandt, B. Kremer, L.J. Schouten*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Head and neck cancer (HNC) is the seventh most-common type of cancer worldwide. Evidence regarding the potential protective effect of vitamins and carotenoids on HNC is limited and mostly based on case-control studies. Objective: We evaluated the association of intake of dietary vitamins C and E (including supplementation) and the most-common carotenoids (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein plus zeaxanthin, lycopene, and beta-cryptoxanthin) and risk of HNC and HNC subtypes in a large prospective study. Design: The Netherlands Cohort Study included 120,852 participants. For efficiency reasons, a case-cohort design was used. At baseline in 1986, participants completed a food-frequency questionnaire. A subcohort was randomly selected from the total cohort. After 20.3 y of follow-up, 3898 subcohort members and 415 HNC cases [131 oral cavity cancer (OCCs), 88 oro-/hypopharyngeal cancer (OHPs), and 193 laryngeal cancer cases] were available for analysis. Rate ratios and 95% CIs for highest (quartile 4) compared with lowest (quartile I) quartiles of vitamin and carotenoid intake were estimated by using the Cox proportional hazards model. Results: A strong inverse association was shown between vitamin C and HNC overall (multivariable-adjusted rate ratio for quartile 4 compared with quartile 1: 0.39; 95% CI: 0.23, 0.66; P-trend <0.001), OCC (multivariable-adjusted rate ratio for quartile 4 compared with quartile 1: 0.35; 95% CI: 0.16, 0.77; P-trend <0.05), and OHPC (multivariable-adjusted rate ratio for quartile 4 compared with quartile 1: 0.29; 95% CI: 0.12, 0.67; P-trend <0.01). No statistically significant results were shown for vitamin E, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein plus zeaxanthin. The association of vitamin E and HNC was modified by alcohol status (P-interaction = 0.003) with lower risks in alcohol abstainers. Conclusions: With this study, we show an inverse association between intake of vitamin C and the incidence of HNC and HNC-subtypes. Future research is recommended to investigate the underlying mechanisms and to confirm our results, which may be promising for the prevention of HNC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)420-432
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

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