A few main risk factors account for most stomach and esophagus cancers that occur in the general population, new research shows.
The study from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York involved 1143 patients with esophagus or stomach cancer and 695 healthy people.
The researchers looked at the four main types of cancer that involve the esophagus and stomach: adenocarcinoma of the esophagus, squamous cell cancer of the esophagus, adenocarcinoma of "cardia" region of the stomach, and adenocarcinoma of other stomach areas.
Being overweight accounted for the greatest percentage of esophagus adenocarcinomas-41%. The next biggest contributor--ever smoking --accounted for 40% of cases. Together, being overweight, ever smoking, reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus, and low fruit and vegetable consumption accounted for 79% of cases.
Alcohol consumption was responsible for the greatest percentage of esophageal squamous cell cancers-72%. Nearly 90% of cases could be accounted for by alcohol use, a history of ever smoking, and low fruit and vegetable intake.
For stomach cardia adenocarcinomas, smoking was the biggest contributor, responsible for 45% of cases. A history of ever smoking and being overweight together accounted for 56% of cases.
For other stomach adenocarcinomas, increased nitrite intake, a compound found in smoked foods, accounted for the greatest percentage of cases-41%, the researchers point out.
The rapid rise in the rate of new cases of stomach and esophagus cancers that has occurred in Western populations appears to result from increases in the prevalence of several risk factors that people are capable of changing, the authors note.
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