To explore the relation between esophageal cancer and dietary trace elements in humans, we estimated the average daily intake of zinc, copper, iron, selenium, molybdenum, silicon, cadmium, and nickel in 21 Chinese communes, where the annual mortality rate from esophageal cancer among the population 30 years of age and over ranged from 0 to 495/100,000 person-years. We also estimated the relative level of calcium consumption. Zinc and copper intake were inversely related to esophageal cancer mortality, and calcium intake level was positively related to esophageal cancer mortality. The predicted esophageal cancer mortality among a vegetarian population with a high level of dietary calcium and a low level of dietary zinc was 5.3 times as high as that in a vegetarian population with a low level of dietary calcium and a high level of dietary zinc. The influence of a high level of dietary calcium in a vegetarian population may be explained by a reduction in the absorption of dietary zinc. (Epidemiology 1992;3:402-406)
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