Rice consumption and cancer risk

Over 3.5 billion people around the global depend on rice for more than 20% of their daily calories, solidifying its place as a global food staple (CGIAR Research Program).1  Rice is also a source of arsenic which is a carcinogen or substance that promotes the formation of cancer.  However, it is unclear whether consuming rice increases risk for some cancers.  In this study, Sanchez et al. evaluated the contribution of rice intake to cancer risk, specifically bladder, breast, kidney, lung, and pancreatic cancer, in a population of women who likely had low exposure to arsenic in their drinking water and variability in their rice consumption.  The women were participants in the California Teachers Study (CTS), a prospective study of female public school teachers and administrators that was started in the mid-90’s to identify possible risk factors for breast and other cancers among California teachers.

The authors evaluated the rice consumption of over 95,000 women at baseline, using food frequency questionnaire data collected in the CTS. CTS researchers continuously followed-up and collected data on cancer and other health outcomes for all study participants through 2015.  A total of 9,400 participants developed incident cases of cancer during follow-up, with breast and lung cancer cases being the highest numbers of cases.  Sanchez et al. ultimately found no association between rice intake and lung, kidney, or pancreatic cancer.  There was, however, a small increased risk for breast and bladder cancer.  Though there have not been many epidemiological studies discussing the relationship between rice consumption and cancer risk, existing studies have found similar, non-statistically significant results. The authors recommend doing future studies in more diverse populations who consume rice as a staple food in their diet, in order to continue contributing to the body of knowledge about rice consumption and cancer risk.

1. CGIAR Research Program (CRP) on rice agri-food systems. (n.d.). The global staple. Retrieved November 02, 2020, from http://ricepedia.org/rice-as-food/the-global-staple-rice-consumers

Sanchez TR
, Klu YAK, Genkinger JM, Lacey JV Jr, Chung NT, Navas-Acien A. Association between rice consumption and risk of cancer incidence in the California Teachers Study. Cancer Causes Control 2020; Sep 24. Online ahead of print. PMID: 32974796

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