27 March 2013
The dramatic increase in cancer of the oesophagus over recent years may have been caused by the obesity epidemic, scientists believe.
Over the past 25 years, incidences of this type of cancer diagnosis have risen by 50 per cent in the UK, with approximately 8,500 cases emerging each year.
Research led by the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in the US has now indicated that this trend has been driven by a genetic mutation triggered by obesity.
The researchers attempted to find out why squamous cell cancer, which starts in the upper part of the oesophagus and is linked with smoking and drinking, is now less common than cases of adenocarcinoma, which starts at the base of the oesophagus.
It was found that adenocarcinoma is linked with heartburn, as a series of genetic mutations in tissue samples taken from patients with this type of cancer suggested it is caused by acid reflux.
A sphincter at the base of the oesophagus prevents acid in the stomach gurgling back into it and damaging the lining. However, this sphincter can cease to work properly in obese people, with the resulting damage potentially leading to cancer.
Posted by Philip Briggs
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