Obesity and Carbohydrates Linked to Esophageal Cancer

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Cases of esophageal cancer (adenocarcinoma) in the US have risen in recent decades from 300,000 cases in 1973 to 2.1 million in 2001 at age-adjusted rates. A new study shows that these rates in the US closely mirrored trends of increased carbohydrate intake and obesity from 1973-2001.

A new study illustrates what may be a public heath concern as the composition of US diets changes and total carbohydrate and refined carbohydrate intakes increase. Obesity is a risk factor for many types of cancer, and a diet that includes a high percentage of calories from refined carbohydrates is a common contributor to obesity. Carbohydrates were also unique in that no other studied nutrients were found to correlate with esophageal cancer rates.

The causes of esophageal cancer remain largely unknown. Despite recent advances in treatment, esophageal cancer has a poor prognosis. The five-year rate of survival for esophageal cancer remains below 20 percent and it is the eighth leading cause of cancer-related death in American men.

“If we can reverse the trends in refined carbohydrate intake and obesity in the US, we may be able to reduce the incidence of esophageal cancer,” says Dr. Li Li, senior author of the study.

Source: Thompson CL, Khiani V, Chak A, Berger NA, Li L. Carbohydrate consumption and esophageal cancer: an ecological assessment. Am J Gastroenterol. 2008 Mar;103(3):555-61

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