A quiet epidemic: oesophageal cancer in men

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Experts urge those with persistent acid reflux or difficulties swallowing to visit GPs to counter alarming rise in adenocarcinoma.

Cancer Research UK has released new data on adenocarcinoma and notes an alarming increase, particularly for men as they are almost three times more likely to get oesophageal cancer than women – one of the biggest gender gaps in cancer rates. The latest figures show more than 5,600 men in the UK develop oesophageal cancer every year compared to 2,800 women. This equates to rates of almost 15 in 100,000 men getting the disease, compared to around 5 in 100,000 women.

Infographic: Cancer Research UK

Infographic: Cancer Research UK

Mr Tim Underwood, an oesophageal surgeon and researcher at the University of Southampton, said: “These figures show a worrying number of oesophageal cancers being diagnosed each year, particularly among men.

“Diagnosing the disease earlier is key to improving the chances of survival. Food getting stuck when you swallow and persistent heart burn are not normal. If this is happening to you, you need to see your GP. The vast majority of people won’t have anything seriously wrong with them, but it’s important to get checked out. If left untreated acid reflux – often called heartburn – can damage cells of the oesophagus leading to a condition called Barrett’s oesophagus which in turn can be a precursor of oesophageal cancer.”

Research hopes
Dr Rebecca Fitzgerald, a Cancer Research UK scientist at the University of Cambridge, said: “Oesophageal cancer is on the rise, and sadly the outlook for this disease remains poor. But we’re doing all we can to buck this trend. The chances of surviving oesophageal cancer are greatly improved when it is diagnosed at an early stage.

“I’m working on a trial looking to see whether a technique called cytosponge or ‘sponge on a string’, could help doctors diagnose the very early pre-cursors of oesophageal cancer so that they can be treated. We hope this may have the potential to cut the number of people who develop oesophageal cancer in the future.” The swallowing of a cytosponge, whilst uncomfortable, is far quicker, easier, safer and cheaper than endoscopy.

British researchers are also working with the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) on a project that aims to unravel the genetic code of oesophageal cancer.

We’ll report on the findings when available.

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The ONA Editor curates oncology news, views and reviews from Australia and around the world for our readers. In aggregated content, original sources will be acknowledged in the article footer.

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