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Smoking, Drinking Raise Risks of Esophagus, Stomach Cancer

Certain of these tumors are rising in incidence, experts note

MONDAY, Nov. 17, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Smoking and drinking are associated with three esophageal and stomach cancer subtypes, say Dutch researchers who conducted a long-term study of almost 121,000 people.

The study focused on: esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC), which resembles head and neck cancer; esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC), typically found in the lower esophagus; and gastric cardia adenocarcinoma (GCA), a cancer that occurs in the area of the upper stomach where it joins the esophagus.

After 16 years, there had been 120 ESCC cases, 168 EAC cases and 187 GCA cases among the study participants. The researchers identified a dose relationship between alcohol and ESCC. A person who drank four glasses of alcohol per day was five times more likely to develop ESCC than a person who didn't drink.

Former and current smoking was also associated with an increased risk of all three types of cancers. Current smokers had the highest risk while former smokers had an intermediate risk compared with people who'd never smoked.

The findings, to be presented Monday at the American Academy of Cancer Research's annual cancer prevention conference, in Washington, D.C., confirm risk factors previously associated with these cancers. But they don't explain the rise in these types of cancers, particularly EAC and GCA, researchers said.

"The results of this study again confirm recommendations for a healthy lifestyle, namely not to smoke and to drink alcohol in moderation. But it also suggests that there must be other risk factors for EAC and GCA," study author Jessie Steevens, of the epidemiology department at Maastricht University, said in an American Association for Cancer Research news release.

"Other factors that might be associated with the risk of these cancers include obesity, diet and nutrition, exercise, occupational exposures, medical factors and so forth, which we are beginning to study," she said.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about esophageal cancer.

SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research, news release, Nov. 17, 2008
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