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Cancer Causes Control. 2009 Nov;20(9):1605-15. doi: 10.1007/s10552-009-9406-z. Epub 2009 Aug 4.

Legume intake and the risk of cancer: a multisite case-control study in Uruguay.

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Department of Biostatistics, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1122, 0317, Oslo, Norway.



Previous studies have suggested that a high intake of legumes may decrease the risk of stomach and prostate cancer and some other cancers. However, the evidence is still limited. To further explore the association between legume intake and cancer risk we conducted a case-control study of 11 cancer sites in Uruguay between 1996 and 2004, including 3,539 cancer cases and 2,032 hospital controls.


The highest versus the lowest tertile of legume intake was associated with a significant decrease in the risk of cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx (OR = 0.48, 95% CI: 0.34-0.68), esophagus (OR = 0.54, 95% CI: 0.38-0.77), larynx (OR = 0.55, 95% CI: 0.40-0.77), upper aerodigestive tract (OR = 0.50, 95% CI: 0.40-0.63), stomach (OR = 0.69, 95% CI: 0.49-0.97), colorectum (OR = 0.43, 95% CI: 0.32-0.59), kidney (OR = 0.41, 95% CI: 0.24-0.71), and all sites combined (OR = 0.68, 95% CI: 0.59-0.78). No significant association was observed between legume intake and cancers of the lung (OR = 1.03, 95% CI: 0.83-1.27), breast (OR = 0.89, 95% CI: 0.65-1.20), prostate (OR = 0.87, 95% CI: 0.64-1.18) or bladder (OR = 0.82, 95% CI: 0.57-1.17). Similar results were found for both beans and lentils.


Higher intake of legumes was associated with a decreased risk of several cancers including those of the upper aerodigestive tract, stomach, colorectum, and kidney, but not lung, breast, prostate or bladder. Further investigations of these associations in prospective cohort studies are warranted.

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