Why doctors are concerned with rise in Oeosophageal Cancer cases

Is it caused by environmental triggers? Doctors query.

Oesophageal cancer, computer illustration and light micrograph. Cancers such as this may lead to difficulty in swallowing. Oesophageal cancer is usually not detected until it has spread to other parts of the body.

Britain’s leading cancer experts have identified Kenya as one of four countries in the world that suffer extremely high rates of oeosophageal cancer.

Michael Stratton, director of the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said recent results from an international cancer research study indicated that data from Kenya, Iran, Turkey and China uncovered a crazy amounts of oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma.

“All sorts of different external factors have been put forward to explain these high rates,” said Stratton in an interview with The Guardian.

Stratton said they ruled out consumption of alcohol due to the fact that some countries prohibit the consumption.

“Some researchers have suggested there is a link with high levels of alcohol consumption, for example. But Iran has very low levels of drinking.

Others have suggested that oil fumes from cooking could be involved. However, there seems to be no common denominator between these different regions that can explain these high rates. It has been a real puzzle,” he continued.

Stigmatisation in Kenya

The doctors also found out that the disease is prevalent in the country due to the fact that Kenyans fail to visit the hospital on time.

“There is a particularly high incidence in Kenya and given the general stigma associated with cancer there, many patients do not go straight to doctors or hospitals and instead go to faith healers or herbalists,” said Mimi McCord, who has been involved in the study as a patients’ advocate.

To find out what is the common trigger for a particular disease, researchers often look for the mutational signature.

“A mutational signature is a particular pattern of mutations in the DNA of some cancers – for example lung and skin cancers.

In the case of lung cancer, it is caused by tobacco, and in the case of skin cancer, it is triggered by the ultra-violet component of sunlight,” said Stratton.

Doctors were puzzled to discover oeosophageal cancer lacked a mutational signature. “We would then have been on track to identifying the cause and find public health solutions to the problem. Sadly we still cannot do that,” said Strutton.

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