Health

Esophageal cancer rates among middle-aged Americans doubled over five years

Esophageal cancer rates among middle-aged Americans nearly doubled from 2012 to 2017, researchers say, though they remained the same in older and younger age groups
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Esophageal cancer rates among middle-aged Americans have skyrocketed in what one expert calls an ‘alarming’ finding.

An abstract released last month for the 2022 Digestive Disease Week conference in Bethesda, Maryland, shows esophageal cancer rates among Americans ages 45 to 64 nearly doubled during the period from 2012 to 2017.

Researchers have not yet determined the cause of this jump, and since this study was carried out in Florida, there is a risk that environmental factors are linked to certain parts of the state.

The results are alarming, however, and Dr. Jaffer Ajani, professor of gastrointestinal medical oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, believes it may be time to set some guidelines for when people should be screened for cancer.

Esophageal cancer rates among middle-aged Americans nearly doubled from 2012 to 2017, researchers say, though they remained the same in older and younger age groups

Ajani told DailyMail.com that esophageal cancer is one of the most dangerous forms and people who find out they are sick once they have symptoms are at a significantly increased risk of death.

He compares the severity of the cancer to that of pancreatic cancer, which is widely considered to be one of the most severe forms of the disease.

Dr Jaffer Ajani (pictured) told DailyMail.com that if the results can be replicated elsewhere, it's time for health officials to set standards for esophageal cancer screening.

Dr Jaffer Ajani (pictured) told DailyMail.com that if the results can be replicated elsewhere, it’s time for health officials to set standards for esophageal cancer screening.

The research, which was presented at the conference, one of the most important for gastrointestinal experts worldwide, included data from around five million Floridians during the period.

The participants, all adults, were divided into three groups. Those aged 18 to 44 were considered “young”, those aged 45 to 64 were considered “middle aged” and those over 65 were classified as elderly.

The older age group was the most likely to develop the cancer, with 140 cases per 100,000 people in the age group in 2017 – a figure that has remained constant throughout the period.

There were minimal cases of esophageal cancer in the younger group, which also remained constant throughout the study period.

Massive shifts were found among the middle group, however, with no clear explanation as to why.

Ajani, who was not part of the research, however, has a few theories as to why this might be the case.

First, it’s possible that significant pollution — about which health officials have issued dire warnings — could trigger the development of this disease.

There may also be insecticides or other chemicals in the food that harm the gastrointestinal system.

People who are obese – about 40% of Americans – or who suffer from heartburn are also at increased risk.

There could also be environmental factors at play, particularly if future studies in different states don’t have similar results, which could mean that the Florida environment in particular puts residents at risk.

The main way to find cancer is through endoscopy, where a doctor puts a long tube with a camera on the end into someone's mouth and down into their stomach to look for abnormalities (file photo)

The main way to find cancer is through endoscopy, where a doctor puts a long tube with a camera on the end into someone’s mouth and down into their stomach to look for abnormalities (file photo)

Either way, it will likely take years of more research to find out if this is just a problem on the radar or a significant problem that health officials will need to address in the future. years to come.

There are two main ways to detect cancer – and screening can be crucial as it greatly increases a person’s chances of survival if the malignancy is detected earlier.

The most common way is to perform an endoscopy, a procedure similar to a colonoscopy in which a doctor inserts a long tube with the camera on the end into a person’s body to look inside.

An endoscopy uses the mouth, not the anus, however.

Unlike colonoscopies, which are the most reliable way to detect colon cancer, there is no typical age to start having an endoscopy.

Ajani says if this data is replicated elsewhere, it may be up to the medical intelligentsia to come together and determine an age to receive the screenings.

He is also a proponent of using liquid biopsies as a cancer screening tool. While endoscopies can be resource-intensive — he says there’s probably no way to screen every high-risk person right now, even if guidelines are set — biopsies only require a blood sample .

Liquid biopsies can help researchers learn more about a person’s blood DNA and detect the presence of growth gene mutations – which signal a tumor.

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