Risk Of Esophageal Cancer Decreases With Height

An example of oesophageal cancer due to longstanding
acid damage.
Esophageal cancer is cancer that occurs in the esophagus, a long hollow tube that runs from your throat to your stomach. Your esophagus carry food you swallow to your stomach, and esophageal cancer usually begins in the cells that line the inside of the esophagus. This type of cancer can occur anywhere along the esophagus, but in people in the United States, it occurs most often in the lower portion of the esophagus.  Esophageal cancer is most common in Asia and Africa, and more men than women get it. At the same time, taller individuals are less likely to develop esophageal cancer and it's precursor, Barrett's esophagus, according to a new study in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
 
Researchers conducted a large pooled analysis using data from 14 population-based epidemiologic studies within the International Barrett's and Esophageal Adenocarcinoma Consortium (BEACON), including 1,000 cases of esophageal cancer and twice as many cases of Barrett's esophagus, and twice as many controls. The researchers conducted multiple analyses, including using Mendelian randomization (which incorporates genetic information with traditional approaches) to overcome issues of confounding and bias. The results from all analyses consistently demonstrated an inverse association between height and Barrett's esophagus or esophageal cancer. There were no differences in these estimates based on sex, age, education, smoking, GERD symptoms or body mass index. Adjusting for abdominal obesity yielded similar results.
 
The researchers report no obvious explanation for the association between short height and Barrett's esophagus or esophageal cancer. Future studies investigating the potential causal mechanisms by which risk for Barrett's esophagus or esophageal cancer might be influenced by height are justified.
 
Esophageal cancer incidence increased eight-fold in the U.S. from 1973 to 2008. Almost all cases arise from Barrett's esophagus.
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