Vegans and Vegetarians are Less Likely to Develop Certain Cancers, says Loma Linda University Study

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The findings used prospective data, which involves following subjects over time, of 69,120 Seventh-day Adventists participating in Adventist Health Study-2.

New findings of a large-scale study at Loma Linda University suggest that vegans, people who do not eat meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs, are less likely than their non-vegetarian counterparts to be diagnosed with cancer, and specifically receive more protection against female-specific cancers, such as breast, uterine, ovarian, and other genital cancers.

Findings of the Adventist Health Study – 2 (AHS-2) also suggest that vegetarians who consume dairy and eggs receive more protection from cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, such as cancers of the colon, stomach, and pancreas; while vegetarians who eat fish receive protection from cancers of the respiratory and urinary system.

“These findings should give us a better understanding of the relationships between specific vegetarian subtypes with specific cancers,” says Dr. Yessenia Tantamango-Bartley, a professor at Loma Linda University School of Public Health and postdoctoral fellow with the AHS-2. She is lead author of the research, which was published in the November online issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers Prevention.

The findings used prospective data, which involves following subjects over time, of 69,120 Seventh-day Adventists participating in AHS-2.

All AHS-2 participants filled out a questionnaire that asked how often they consumed more than 200 foods. Participants were then classified into a dietary category, based on their responses: Vegans, or people who abstain from meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs; Lacto-ovo vegetarians, or people who consume no meat, poultry and fish; and Pesco vegetarians, or people who consume no meat and poultry.

“By doing this, we can study which specific diet has more or less protection from certain cancers,” says Karen Jaceldo-Siegl, DrPH, head of the AHS-2 nutrition section.

Among the study’s findings:

  •     An association between vegetarianism, particularly those people who maintain a vegan diet, and all cancers, indicating mild but convincing protection from overall cancer risk.
  •     Vegetarians had less gastrointestinal cancers, including cancers of the colon, pancreas, liver, and stomach, especially among lacto-ovo vegetarians.
  •     Vegan women experienced fewer female-specific cancers;
  •     Pesco vegetarians seemed to have protection for cancers of the respiratory and urinary system.

“This study suggests that vegetarian diets may decrease the incidence of all cancers,” says Dr. Gary Fraser, principal investigator of AHS-2.

The AHS-2 began in 2002 as a study among members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church throughout the United States and Canada. The study investigates the role of foods and nutrients, as well as lifestyles and metabolic risk indicators, in causing cancer.

A unique feature of the study is the participation of Seventh-day Adventist subjects, a population with a wide variety of dietary habits, as well as a very low percentage of alcohol consumption or cigarette smoking, non-dietary factors that may otherwise impact the study.


About Loma Linda University (
Loma Linda University is a Seventh-day Adventist educational health-sciences institution with more than 4,600 students located in the Inland Empire of Southern California. Eight schools make up the University organization: Allied Health Professions, Behavioral Health, Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Public Health, and Religion. More than 55 programs ranging from certificates of completion and associate in science degrees to doctor of philosophy and professional doctoral degrees are offered. Students from more than 80 countries around the world and virtually every state in the nation are represented in Loma Linda University’s student body.

About Adventist Health Study-2 (AHS-2)
Adventist Health Study-2 (AHS-2) is one of the largest health studies of its kind, and with national importance and international significance. It is a cohort study of more than 96,000 Seventh-day Adventists in the U.S. and Canada who enrolled between 2002 and 2007. Adventists, due in part to their unique dietary habits, have a lower risk than other Americans of heart disease, several cancers, and probably high blood pressure, arthritis, and diabetes. This, along with their wide variety of dietary habits, provides a special opportunity for careful research to answer a host of scientific questions about how diet (and other health habits) may change the risk of suffering from many chronic diseases. Two previous studies on Adventist health involving 24,000 and 34,000 Californian Adventists have been directed from Loma Linda University over the last 40 years. These have been among the first to raise scientific awareness of the close relationship between diet and health. This groundbreaking work has brought visibility and accolades to the lifestyle recommended by Seventh-day Adventists from both the scientific and lay communities. AHS-2 is conducted by researchers at Loma Linda University School of Public Health. For more information, visit

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