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Nutr Cancer. 2008;60(4):474-82. doi: 10.1080/01635580801956477.

Blood iron, glutathione, and micronutrient levels and the risk of oral cancer.

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Department of Public Health Sciences, Penn State Cancer Institute, Penn State University College of Medicine, Hershey, Pennsylvania 17033, USA.


The risk of oral cavity cancer was determined in relation to serological levels of iron; vitamins A, B2, C, E; zinc; thiamin; and glutathione (GSH). The study included 65 hospitalized patients with oral cancer and 85 matched controls. In comparing the highest to the lowest tertiles, the risk was odds ratio (OR) = 0.3 [95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.1-0.6] for iron; 3.2 (95% CI = 1.3-8.1) for total iron binding capacity (TIBC), which measures the concentration of the iron delivery protein transferrin; and 0.4 (95% CI = 0.2-0.9) for transferrin saturation (iron/TIBC x 100). These associations were stronger in never smokers than in ever smokers. The risk associated with the iron storage protein ferritin was significantly elevated, but this association could reflect disease-related inflammation or comorbidity. The OR for GSH was 0.4 (95% CI = 0.1-0.9), and the OR for GSH reductase activity coefficient (indicative of riboflavin deficiency) was 1.6 (95% CI = 1.3-3.7). These findings suggest that mild iron deficiency and low GSH levels, which are associated with increased oxidative stress, increase the risk of oral cavity cancer.

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