Oesophageal cancer

Our analysis of worldwide research on oesophageal cancer

As part of the Continuous Update Project (CUP) – our ongoing programme to analyse global research on how diet, nutrition, physical activity and weight affect cancer risk and survival – we have analysed worldwide research to produce our report on oesophageal cancer.

Published in July 2016, the report is the most rigorous, systematic, global analysis of the scientific research currently available on diet, weight, physical activity and oesophageal cancer, and which of these factors increase or decrease the risk of developing the disease.

For the report, the global scientific research on diet, nutrition, physical activity and oesophageal cancer was gathered and analysed by a research team at Imperial College London, and then independently assessed by a panel of leading international scientists.

The report reviewed evidence from 46 studies from around the world. The studies examined around 15 million adults and nearly 31,000 cases of oesophageal cancer.

The report updates the oesophageal cancer section of our 2007 Second Expert Report.

Oesophageal cancer is divided into two main subtypes - adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. These types have some different risk factors although both have a high mortality rate:

  1. Adenocarcinoma arises from the glandular cells present in the lower oesophagus and accounts for approximately 12% of oesophageal cancer globally although the incidence of oesophageal adenocarcinoma has increased sharply in the last few decades.
  2. Squamous cell carcinoma arises from the epithelial cells that line the oesophagus and account for approximately 88% of oesophageal cancer cases globally although rates have declined over the last few years.

Key Findings

Strong evidence

  • There is strong evidence that being overweight or obese increases the risk of adenocarcinoma of the oesophagus. Being overweight or obese was assessed by body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and waist-hip ratio.
  • There is strong evidence that consuming alcoholic drinks increases the risk of oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma.
  • There is strong evidence that regularly consuming mate, as drunk very hot in the traditional style in South America, increases the risk of oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma.

Oesophageal adenocarcinoma strong evidence matrix

Oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma strong evidence matrix

Changes since the last time we reviewed the worldwide evidence on the link between diet, nutrition, physical activity, weight and oesophageal cancer (for our 2007 Second Expert Report):

  • For the first time we have been able to look at all exposures by subtype of oesophageal cancer.