Search tips
Search criteria 


Logo of jepicomhJournal of Epidemiology and Community HealthVisit this articleSubmit a manuscriptReceive email alertsContact usBMJ
J Epidemiol Community Health. 2003 March; 57(3): 218–225.
PMCID: PMC1732406

Fruit, vegetables, and antioxidants in childhood and risk of adult cancer: the Boyd Orr cohort


Study objective: To examine associations between food and nutrient intake, measured in childhood, and adult cancer in a cohort with over 60 years follow up.

Design and setting: The study is based on the Boyd Orr cohort. Intake of fruit and vegetables, energy, vitamins C and E, carotene, and retinol was assessed from seven day household food inventories carried out during a study of family diet and health in 16 rural and urban areas of England and Scotland in 1937–39.

Participants: 4999 men and women, from largely working class backgrounds, who had been children in the households participating in the pre-war survey. Analyses are based on 3878 traced subjects with full data on diet and social circumstances.

Main results: Over the follow up period there were 483 incident malignant neoplasms. Increased childhood fruit intake was associated with reduced risk of incident cancer. In fully adjusted logistic regression models, odds ratios (95% confidence intervals) with increasing quartiles of fruit consumption were 1.0 (reference), 0.66 (0.48 to 0.90), 0.70 (0.51 to 0.97), 0.62 (0.43 to 0.90); p value for linear trend=0.02. The association was weaker for cancer mortality. There was no clear pattern of association between the other dietary factors and total cancer risk.

Conclusions: Childhood fruit consumption may have a long term protective effect on cancer risk in adults. Further prospective studies, with individual measures of diet are required to further elucidate these relations.

Full Text

The Full Text of this article is available as a PDF (125K).

Supplementary Material


Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Potischman N, Weiss HA, Swanson CA, Coates RJ, Gammon MD, Malone KE, Brogan D, Stanford JL, Hoover RN, Brinton LA. Diet during adolescence and risk of breast cancer among young women. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1998 Feb 4;90(3):226–233. [PubMed]
  • Andersson SO, Baron J, Wolk A, Lindgren C, Bergström R, Adami HO. Early life risk factors for prostate cancer: a population-based case-control study in Sweden. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 1995 Apr-May;4(3):187–192. [PubMed]
  • Hansson LE, Nyrén O, Bergström R, Wolk A, Lindgren A, Baron J, Adami HO. Nutrients and gastric cancer risk. A population-based case-control study in Sweden. Int J Cancer. 1994 Jun 1;57(5):638–644. [PubMed]
  • Slattery ML, Schumacher MC, West DW, Robison LM, French TK. Food-consumption trends between adolescent and adult years and subsequent risk of prostate cancer. Am J Clin Nutr. 1990 Oct;52(4):752–757. [PubMed]
  • Mills PK, Beeson WL, Phillips RL, Fraser GE. Dietary habits and breast cancer incidence among Seventh-day Adventists. Cancer. 1989 Aug 1;64(3):582–590. [PubMed]
  • Mills PK, Beeson WL, Phillips RL, Fraser GE. Cohort study of diet, lifestyle, and prostate cancer in Adventist men. Cancer. 1989 Aug 1;64(3):598–604. [PubMed]
  • Pryor M, Slattery ML, Robison LM, Egger M. Adolescent diet and breast cancer in Utah. Cancer Res. 1989 Apr 15;49(8):2161–2167. [PubMed]
  • Hislop TG, Coldman AJ, Elwood JM, Brauer G, Kan L. Childhood and recent eating patterns and risk of breast cancer. Cancer Detect Prev. 1986;9(1-2):47–58. [PubMed]
  • Gunnell DJ, Frankel S, Nanchahal K, Braddon FE, Smith GD. Lifecourse exposure and later disease: a follow-up study based on a survey of family diet and health in pre-war Britain (1937-1939). Public Health. 1996 Mar;110(2):85–94. [PubMed]
  • Frankel S, Gunnell DJ, Peters TJ, Maynard M, Davey Smith G. Childhood energy intake and adult mortality from cancer: the Boyd Orr Cohort Study. BMJ. 1998 Feb 14;316(7130):499–504. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Phillimore P, Beattie A, Townsend P. Widening inequality of health in northern England, 1981-91. BMJ. 1994 Apr 30;308(6937):1125–1128. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Hertog MG, Bueno-de-Mesquita HB, Fehily AM, Sweetnam PM, Elwood PC, Kromhout D. Fruit and vegetable consumption and cancer mortality in the Caerphilly Study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 1996 Sep;5(9):673–677. [PubMed]
  • Smith-Warner SA, Spiegelman D, Yaun SS, Adami HO, Beeson WL, van den Brandt PA, Folsom AR, Fraser GE, Freudenheim JL, Goldbohm RA, et al. Intake of fruits and vegetables and risk of breast cancer: a pooled analysis of cohort studies. JAMA. 2001 Feb 14;285(6):769–776. [PubMed]
  • Kimmick GG, Bell RA, Bostick RM. Vitamin E and breast cancer: a review. Nutr Cancer. 1997;27(2):109–117. [PubMed]
  • Olson KB, Pienta KJ. Vitamins A and E: further clues for prostate cancer prevention. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1998 Mar 18;90(6):414–415. [PubMed]
  • Nelson M. The distribution of nutrient intake within families. Br J Nutr. 1986 Mar;55(2):267–277. [PubMed]
  • Must A, Lipman RD. Childhood energy intake and cancer mortality in adulthood. Nutr Rev. 1999 Jan;57(1):21–24. [PubMed]

Articles from Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health are provided here courtesy of BMJ Publishing Group