The United States has experienced an alarming and unexplained increase in the incidence of esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) since the 1970s. A concurrent increase in obesity has led some to suggest a relationship between the two trends. We explore the extent of this relationship.
Using a previously validated disease simulation model of white males in the United States, we estimated EAC incidence 1973 to 2005 given constant obesity prevalence and low population progression rates consistent with the early 1970s. Introducing only the observed, rising obesity prevalence, we calculated the incremental incidence caused by obesity. We compared these with EAC incidence data from the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) registry to determine obesity's contribution to the rise therein. Incidences were converted to absolute numbers of cases using U.S. population data.
Using constant obesity prevalence, we projected a total of 30,555 EAC cases cumulatively over 1973 to 2005 and 1,151 in 2005 alone. Incorporating the observed obesity trend resulted in 35,767 cumulative EACs and 1,608 in 2005. Estimates derived from SEER data showed 111,223 cumulative and 7,173 cases in 2005. We conclude that the rise in obesity accounted for 6.5% of the increase in EAC cases that occurred from 1973 to 2005 and 7.6% in the year 2005.
Using published OR for EAC among obese individuals, we found that only a small percentage of the rise in EAC incidence is attributable to secular trends in obesity.
Other factors, alone and in combination, should be explored as causes of the EAC epidemic.