Background: In the 2007 World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research Second Expert Report, the expert panel judged that there was strong evidence that alcoholic drinks and body fatness increased esophageal cancer risk, whereas fruits and vegetables probably decreased its risk. The judgments were mainly based on case-control studies. As part of the Continuous Update Project (CUP), we updated the scientific evidence accumulated from cohort studies in this topic.

Methods: We updated the CUP database up to 10 January, 2017 by searching in PubMed and conducted dose-response meta-analyses to estimate summary relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) using random effects model.

Results: A total of 57 cohort studies were included in 13 meta-analyses. Esophageal adenocarcinoma risk was inversely related to vegetable intake (RR per 100 g/day: 0.89, 95% CI: 0.80-0.99, n = 3) and directly associated with body mass index (BMI) (RR per 5 kg/m2: 1.47, 95% CI: 1.34-1.61, n = 9). For esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, inverse associations were observed with fruit intake (RR for 100 g/day increment: 0.84, 95% CI: 0.75-0.94, n = 3) and BMI (RR for 5 kg/m2 increment: 0.64, 95% CI: 0.56-0.73, n = 8), and direct associations with intakes of processed meats (RR for 50 g/day increment: 1.59, 95% CI: 1.11-2.28, n = 3), processed and red meats (RR for 100 g/day increment: 1.37, 95% CI: 1.04-1.82, n = 3) and alcohol (RR for 10 g/day increment: 1.25, 95% CI: 1.12-1.41, n = 6).

Conclusions: Evidence from cohort studies suggested a protective role of vegetables and body weight control in esophageal adenocarcinomas development. For squamous cell carcinomas, higher intakes of red and processed meats and alcohol may increase the risk, whereas fruits intake may play a protective role.