Cancer warning: The popular type of vegetable associated with a twofold greater risk

Gran ignored NHS checks only to be diagnosed with cancer

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A meta-analysis by researchers that examined 34 existing studies concluded there is a “statistically significant association” between consuming pickled vegetables and oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). Oesophageal cancer affects the oesophagus – the food pipe between the mouth and stomach. According to Cancer Research UK it is the 14th most common cancer in adults nationwide, with 9,300 people diagnosed every year.

The research, which was published in the British Journal of Cancer, found that “pooled results for all studies” suggested a “two-fold” increased risk of the cancer due to pickled vegetables.

It was conducted following a history of linking the two.

The analysis says: “Ecological and experimental studies have suggested a relationship between Asian pickled vegetable consumption and oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma, but the results of epidemiological studies investigating the association have been inconsistent.

“We conducted a meta-analysis of observational studies of this association to evaluate the existing evidence.

“Similar to the overall association, the majority of subgroup analyses showed a statistically significant association between consuming pickled vegetables and OSCC risk.”

It concludes: “Our results suggest a potential two-fold increased risk of oesophageal cancer associated with the intake of pickled vegetables.

“However, because the majority of data was from retrospective studies and there was a high heterogeneity in the results, further well-designed prospective studies are warranted.”

The research also considers why pickled vegetables could be carcinogenic.


“Extracts of pickled vegetables have shown mutagenic and transforming activities as well as promoting effects in vitro, inducing hyperplasia and dysplasia in oesophageal epithelium and tumours in rodents,” it adds.

Cancer Research UK says that “almost 55 out of 100 people with stage one oesophageal cancer will survive their cancer for five years or more after they’re diagnosed”.

But, it adds: “There are no five year survival statistics for stage four cancer because sadly many people don’t live for that long after diagnosis.

“Around 20 out of 100 people with stage four oesophageal cancer will survive their cancer for one year or more after they are diagnosed.”

The most common symptoms of oesophageal cancer include:

  • difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • indigestion or heartburn that don’t go away
  • unexplained weight loss
  • pain in your throat or behind your breastbone

“There are many other conditions that cause these symptoms,” Cancer Research UK says.

“Most of them are much more common than oesophageal cancer.”

It advises: “You should see your doctor if you have difficulty swallowing, or you have symptoms that are unusual for you or that won’t go away.

“Your symptoms are unlikely to be cancer but it is important to get them checked by a doctor.”

Other, less common, symptoms include:

  • food coming back up
  • hoarseness
  • a cough that won’t go away
  • coughing up blood
  • dark poo

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