U.K. men have higher esophageal cancer risk than women

Men are almost three times more likely to get esophageal cancer than women, according to new figures from Cancer Research UK.

This difference seems to be caused by one particular type of esophageal cancer -- adenocarcinoma -- which is linked to obesity and long-term acid heartburn or indigestion.

Esophageal cancer is the ninth most common cancer in the U.K., the organization noted in a press release. The latest figures show that more than 5,600 men in the U.K. develop esophageal cancer every year, compared with 2,800 women. This equates to rates of almost 15 in 100,000 men getting the disease, compared with five in 100,000 women.

There are two main types of esophageal cancer: adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, according to Cancer Research UK. Obesity, tobacco, and long-term acid reflux increase the risk of adenocarcinoma, while tobacco, alcohol, and a diet low in fruit are the most common risk factors for squamous cell carcinoma.

The new statistics show that in England adenocarcinomas in men have been rising steadily, from 1,600 cases (or 6.2 per 100,000 men) in 1997 to more than 3,000 cases (or 9.4 per 100,000) in 2010. The number of adenocarcinoma cases has also increased for women, though more slowly, to around 800 cases (or 1.8 per 100,000 women).

By comparison, squamous cell carcinoma rates in both men and women have not increased. There were approximately 900 and 1,000 cases diagnosed in men and women, respectively, in 2010.

Diagnosing the disease earlier is crucial to improving the chances of survival, the organization emphasized.

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