- Excessive alcohol intake and obesity can increase the risk for two primary types of esophageal cancer, according to a new study. Lifestyle choices significantly influence our cancer risk with obesity associated with 11 types of cancer, and alcohol having links to six.
- The study scrutinsed 46 studies, involving more than 15 million adults, including 31,000 individuals who developed esophageal cancer. The results revealed that every 5-point increment in BMI corresponds to a 48 percent rise in the risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma.
- Another significant finding is a 25% heightened risk of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma for every additional 10 grams of alcohol consumed per day. Furthermore, alcohol contributes heavily to obesity due to its high caloric content.
- The risks can be minimized by making conscious choices such as reducing alcoholic intake, consuming more vegetables, beans, and other plant-based foods, and introducing activities like walking breaks into daily routines.
- Esophageal cancer is a significant health risk, acting as the sixth leading cause of cancer fatalities worldwide and the seventh leading cause in American men. Most cases are diagnosed at advanced stages, resulting in low survival rates.
Excessive alcohol intake and obesity could potentially elevate the risk for two primary types of esophageal cancer. Revealed in a new study indicating probable dangers of such lifestyle choices, it has been found that maintaining a balanced weight and moderating alcohol consumption could prevent approximately one-third of esophageal cancer cases in the United States — an estimated 5,600 cases per year.
The role of lifestyle in Cancer Risk
“This data adds weight to the argument that our lifestyle choices significantly influence our cancer risk,” said Alice Bender, the lead of nutrition at a recognized American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR).
She further explained “Obesity has associations with 11 types of cancer, and alcohol has links to six. We aim to empower individuals with the knowledge that making important lifestyle decisions can decrease the risk for many types of cancer.”
Details of the Study
The comprehensive report, a joint effort of experts at AICR and the World Cancer Research Fund, meticulously scrutinsed 46 studies, featuring more than 15 million adults. This included 31,000 individuals who developed esophageal cancer.
The results revealed that every 5-point increment in body mass index (BMI), a criterion of body fat estimated from weight and height, corresponds to a 48 percent rise in risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma, primarily forming in the lower esophagus. This cancer subtype constitutes approximately 60 percent of esophageal cancer diagnoses in the United States.
To put this into perspective, consider a man standing 5-foot-9 and weighing 150 pounds – his BMI would be 22. Should his weight increase to 210 pounds, his BMI would rise to 31, crossing the obesity threshold.
Obesity Epidemic’s Parallel Rise with Esophageal Cancer
Not surprisingly, the dramatic increase in esophageal cancer has been mirroring the obesity epidemic. Dr. Anthony Starpoli, a senior specialist in esophageal endotherapy, acknowledges how this study validates such observations.
An additional finding is the 25 percent heightened risk of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma for every additional 10 grams of alcohol consumed per day — approximately the amount in a standard glass of beer or wine.
This type of esophageal cancer, originating from the esophageal lining cells, accounts for one-third of the esophageal cancers in the United States and is the leading type worldwide.
“Alcohol could be directly carcinogenic, or its propensity to worsen reflux could damage the esophagus’ inner wall more extensively,” suggests Dr. Starpoli. Worth noting is the fact that chronic acid reflux is a high-risk factor for esophageal cancer.
“Naturally, the significant number of empty calories from alcohol also contributes to obesity,” added Starpoli.
Mitigating these Risks
Bender postulates that these risks can indeed be minimized.
“Making conscious choices such as reducing alcoholic intake, consuming more vegetables, beans, and other plant-based foods, and introducing activities like walking breaks in your day are simple steps you can take towards reducing your cancer risk,” concluded Bender.
However, she emphasized the severity of esophageal cancer, being the sixth leading cause of cancer fatalities worldwide and the seventh leading cause in American men. This cancer’s survival rates are unfortunately low, primarily because most cases get diagnosed at advanced stages.
For more details on esophageal cancer, you may visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute’s page on esophageal cancer.