Squamous cell esophageal cancer is one of the few cancers that is inversely related to body mass index (BMI).
It has previously been unclear whether the low body mass is caused directly by cancer-related weight loss or by other correlates of leanness.
A research team led by Dr S Gallus of the University of Milan, Italy, compared 395 patients with histologically confirmed cases of squamous cell esophageal cancer and 1,066 controls, admitted to hospitals in Italy and Switzerland for acute non-neoplastic diseases.
The study found that odds ratios for squamous cell esophogeal cancer for the lowest quartile vs. the highest quartile of BMI in the year before diagnosis were 2.0 in men, 1.6 in women and 1.9 for the whole sample.
Low BMI in the distant past was unrelated to cancer risk
|Dr S Gallus|
The association with low BMI was strongest in smokers. However, the relationship of BMI with carcinogenesis could not be accounted for by smoking, drinking or dietary factors.
Low body mass in the decade prior to diagnosis showed no association with esophageal cancer risk.
Dr Gallus concludes, "Leanness appears to be an indicator of squamous cell esophageal cancer risk"
"However, low BMI in the distant past was unrelated to cancer risk."