Rates of Esophageal Cancer Are Rising
Fastest Rising Form of Cancer in the U.S.
WebMD News Archive
Jan. 18, 2005 -- The number of Americans diagnosed with a common form of
esophageal cancer has increased sixfold over the last 25 years.
About half of the estimated 14,250 people diagnosed with esophageal cancer
in 2004 have a form of esophageal cancer called adenocarcinoma. The esophagus
is the long, narrow tube that brings food and liquid from the mouth to the
Although esophageal adenocarcinoma is relatively uncommon, researchers say
it is now the fastest growing form of cancer in the U.S., and its incidence is
rising faster than breast cancer, prostate cancer, or melanoma.
Some had suspected that the rapid increase in esophageal cancer rates might
be the result of improved screening and detection.
People with Barrett's esophagus, a condition in which abnormal cells develop
from long-term acid reflux, are more likely to get this form of esophageal
Esophageal Cancer Rising Rapidly
In the study, which appears in the Jan. 19 issue of the Journal of the
National Cancer Institute, researchers found that from 1975 to 2001, the
frequency of esophageal adenocarcinoma rose approximately sixfold in the U.S.
from 4 to 23 cases per million people.
Researchers ruled out overdiagnosis as a potential cause of the
In addition, the study showed that at the same time that this type of
esophageal adenocarcinoma has increased by sixfold, the rate of deaths due to
this form of esophageal cancer has grown by sevenfold, from 2 to 15 deaths per
"Our results strongly indicate that the increase in esophageal
adenocarcinoma represents a true increase in disease burden," write
researcher Heiko Pohl of the VA Outcomes Group in White River Junction, Vt.,
"To explain a rise of this magnitude, however, the prevalence of a
strong risk factor must also rise dramatically …," they write. "Such a
risk factor has not yet been identified and defining it should be a