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Cancer Risk and Egg Consumption: Exploring the Evidence

Jul 17, 2021

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The Relationship between Egg Consumption and Cancer Risk 

Observational studies have produced mixed results regarding the association between egg consumption and cancer risk. Some studies suggest that high egg consumption is associated with a higher risk of certain cancers. Which include gastrointestinal, upper aero-digestive tract, and ovarian cancers. Many studies have found no significant association between egg consumption and certain cancers. These include brain cancer, bladder cancer, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, among others.

Moreover, some studies have observed a positive association between egg consumption and certain cancers, such as prostate and ovarian cancers. However, this may be because other risk factors, such as obesity/overweight and lifestyle factors, were not taken into account. Nonetheless, moderate egg consumption is not expected to cause cancer and may provide significant nutritional benefits. It is advisable, however, to limit the intake of fried eggs.



Eggs have been a part of a healthy and balanced diet for thousands of years. They are considered an inexpensive and economical source of high-quality protein. Moreover, there are various types of edible eggs available in different sizes and tastes, including chicken, ducks, quails, and others. Chicken eggs are the most popular and widely consumed.

eggs and cancer

Whole eggs are one of the most nutritious foods available, loaded with many essential nutrients. They provide a good source of proteins, vitamins (D, B6, B12), minerals (selenium, zinc, iron, copper), and other nutrients like lutein, zeaxanthin, and choline. However, due to their cholesterol content, eggs have been the subject of controversy for many years regarding their impact on heart .

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Nutritional Benefits of Eggs

Moderate egg consumption provides numerous health benefits. These benefits include:

  • Producing energy
  • Maintaining a healthy immune system
  • Increasing HDL, the good cholesterol that does not negatively impact heart health
  • Providing proteins for maintaining and repairing different body tissues, including muscles
  • Facilitating the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system
  • Folic acid and choline play an important role in brain and spinal cord development during pregnancy. They also aid in cognitive development in infants and can prevent cognitive decline in the elderly.
  • Protecting bones and preventing diseases such as osteoporosis and rickets
  • Reducing age-related blindness
  • Promoting healthy skin

Although eggs contain cholesterol, they may not adversely affect blood cholesterol levels. Red meat, which is high in saturated fats, has a greater impact on blood cholesterol levels than other sources. Eating eggs in moderation should not lead to any health problems. However, it is advisable to limit the consumption of fried eggs.

Egg Consumption and Cancer Risk

Numerous studies have examined the potential link between egg consumption and various types of cancer. This blog will review several studies. We’ll determine if there’s evidence suggesting that avoiding eggs can help reduce the risk of cancer..

Egg Consumption and Brain Cancer Risk

In a recent study conducted by researchers at Ningxia University in China, the association between poultry and egg consumption and brain cancer risk was evaluated. The researchers used data from ten different articles, six of which pertained to poultry and five to eggs. Further gathered through a literature search of online databases such as PubMed, Web of knowledge, and Wan Fang Med Online. However, the researchers concluded that consuming poultry and eggs is not associated with an increased risk of brain cancer.(Haifeng Luo et al, Cell Mol Biol (Noisy-le-grand)., 2019)

Egg Consumption and Risk of Upper Aero-Digestive Tract Cancers

In an Iranian meta-analysis, researchers aimed to investigate the association between egg intake and the risk of Upper Aero-Digestive Tract cancers. The analysis included data from 38 studies with a total of 164,241 participants, including 27,025 cases, obtained through literature searches. However in Medline/PubMed, ISI web of knowledge, EMBASE, Scopus, and Google Scholar databases. (Azadeh Aminianfar et al, Adv Nutr., 2019)

The meta-analysis found that high daily egg consumption of 1 meal/day may be associated with an increased risk of Upper Aero-Digestive Tract cancers. However, the researchers found this association only in hospital-based case-control studies, but not in population-based cohort studies.

Egg Consumption and Gastro-Intestinal Cancers

Researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia conducted a study to evaluate the relationship between egg consumption and the risk of gastrointestinal (GI) cancers. Additionally ,the analysis included data from 37 case-control and 7 cohort studies involving 424,867 participants and 18,852 GI cancer cases, through literature searches in electronic databases until January 2014. (Genevieve Tse et al, Eur J Nutr., 2014)

The findings of the study suggested that egg consumption may have a positive dose-response association with the development of gastrointestinal cancers.

Egg Consumption and Ovarian Cancer Risk

Researchers from Hebei Medical University in China conducted a meta-analysis to investigate whether there is any association between egg consumption and ovarian cancer risk. The meta-analysis included data from 12 eligible studies involving 629,453 subjects and 3,728 ovarian cancer cases, obtained through literature searches in PUBMED, EMBASE, and Cochrane Library Central database up to August 2013.

The study suggested that women who have a high intake of eggs may have a higher risk of ovarian cancer compared to those who have a low intake of eggs. However, the researchers found this association only in case-control studies, but not in population-based studies. Additionally, these studies may not have adjusted for other factors that can also increase ovarian cancer risk, such as being overweight. The American Institute for Cancer Research analyzed the evidence and concluded that it is too limited to support any definitive conclusions.

Egg Consumption and Breast Cancer Risk

A 2014 study conducted by researchers from Gansu Provincial Hospital in China evaluated the relationship between egg consumption and breast cancer risk. The analysis included data from 13 studies gathered through literature searches in PubMed, EMBASE, and ISI Web of Knowledge databases. The analysis found that increased egg consumption may be linked to a higher risk of breast cancer. This association was observed among the European, Asian, and postmenopausal populations, particularly in those who consumed 2 to 5 eggs per week. (Ruohuang Si et al, Breast Cancer.,) Therefore, more research is needed to determine the relationship between egg consumption and breast cancer risk.

Egg Consumption and Bladder Cancer Risk

In 2013, researchers from Nanfang Hospital, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, China conducted a meta-analysis to evaluate the link between egg consumption and bladder cancer risk. They analyzed data from four cohort studies and nine case-control studies involving 2715 cases and 184,727 participants. The study found no significant association between egg consumption and bladder cancer risk. However, limited studies suggest a potential association between a higher intake of fried eggs and an increased risk of bladder cancer. The researchers recommended conducting large prospective cohort studies to confirm these findings.

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Egg Consumption and Prostate Cancer Risk

Researchers from Tongde Hospital of Zhejiang Province, Hangzhou, China, investigated the link between dietary egg intake and prostate cancer risk. They analyzed data from nine cohort studies and eleven case-control studies published up to July 2012. The study found no association between egg consumption and prostate cancer incidence or prostate cancer-specific mortality.

However, a previous study suggested that men who consumed 2.5 or more eggs per week had an 81% higher risk of lethal prostate cancer than men who consumed less than 0.5 eggs per week. The lifestyle factors of these men, such as age, higher body mass index, smoking, and eating red and processed meats, may also have contributed to prostate cancer.

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Egg Consumption and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Risk

Researchers from Huazhong University of Science and Technology and Xiangyang Hospital Affiliated to Hubei University of Medicine in China conducted a meta-analysis to evaluate the link between poultry and egg consumption and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma risk. They analyzed data from nine case-control studies and three population-based studies, including 11,271 Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma cases, obtained through literature search in MEDLINE and EMBASE databases till March 2015. The meta-analysis found no association between consumption of poultry and eggs and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma risk.


Conclusion


While some studies suggest a possible link between egg consumption and certain cancers, such as gastrointestinal and ovarian cancer, many other studies show no association. The positive associations found may be due to the studies not adjusting for other risk factors. Moderate egg consumption as a part of a balanced diet can offer nutritional benefits. However, it is recommended to limit the intake of fried eggs. Ultimately, nutrition planning for cancer should consider individual factors like cancer type, genetic mutations, ongoing treatments, and lifestyle.


Scientifically Reviewed by: Dr. Cogle

Christopher R. Cogle, M.D. is a tenured professor at the University of Florida, Chief Medical Officer of Florida Medicaid, and Director of the Florida Health Policy Leadership Academy at the Bob Graham Center for Public Service.

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