Increase in throat cancer parallels obesity rate

NEW YORK Thu Apr 3, 2008 2:57pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The rising incidence of throat cancer, also referred to as cancer of the esophagus or esophageal adenocarcinoma, may be related to Americans' increasing intake of total and refined carbohydrates and subsequent rise in obesity rates.

"The similarity in these trends gives further evidence for the association of carbohydrate intake, obesity, and related measures with cancer," Dr. Cheryl L. Thompson told Reuters Health.

She and colleagues caution, however, that such observations do not necessarily reflect individual risk for esophageal adenocarcinoma

The researchers, all associated with Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals of Cleveland, in Ohio, compared National Cancer Institute data for esophageal adenocarcinoma (1973-2001) and food consumption information from the National Nutrient Data Bank (1909-1997).

The incidence of esophageal adenocarcinoma increased over the review period and "strongly correlated" with carbohydrate consumption. This cancer is also known to be strongly associated with gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), which, in turn, associated with obesity and a high carbohydrate intake, the investigators report in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

By contrast, they noted a decrease in the rates of squamous cell cancer of the esophagus, which is more closely associated with smoking rather than reflux disease and obesity.

The researchers found a trend toward higher intakes of refined carbohydrates; those with more starch and lower nutrient levels than carbohydrates obtained from whole grains and minimally processed foods.

These findings highlight the importance of limiting refined carbohydrates in the American diet, the investigators note. Additional research is needed to assess individual risk from high intake of refined carbohydrates, Thompson adds.

SOURCE: American Journal of Gastroenterology, March 2008.

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