The strong male predominance in esophageal and gastroesophageal junctional adenocarcinoma remains unexplained. Sex hormonal influence has been suggested, but not proven. A protective role of dietary phytoestrogen lignans was hypothesized.
A Swedish nationwide population-based case-control study was conducted in 1995-1997, including 181 cases of esophageal adenocarcinoma, 255 cases of gastroesophageal junctional adenocarcinoma, 158 cases of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, and 806 control subjects. Data on various exposures, including dietary data, were collected through personal interviews and questionnaires. Dietary intake of lignans was assessed using a food frequency questionnaire and categorized into quartiles based on the consumption among the control participants. Unconditional logistic regression was used to calculate odds ratios (ORs) with 95 % confidence intervals (CIs), including adjustment for all established risk factors.
Participants in the highest quartile of intake of lignans compared with the lowest quartile were at a decreased risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma (OR, 0.65; 95 % CI, 0.38-1.12; p for trend =0.03), gastroesophageal junctional adenocarcinoma (OR, 0.37; 95 % CI, 0.23-0.58; p for trend <0.0001), and these adenocarcinomas combined (OR, 0.45; 95 % CI, 0.31-0.67; p for trend <0.0001). No clear associations were found between lignan intake and risk of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma.
This population-based study indicates that a high dietary intake of lignans decreases the risk of adenocarcinoma of the esophagus and gastroesophageal junction.