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Oesophageal cancer fastest rising cancer in Australia

Queensland Institute of Medical Research scientists have found that oesophageal cancer rates in Australia continue to grow at an alarming rate and they’ve developed a “prediction model” to identify people at high risk.

Dr Aaron Thrift, from QIMR’s Cancer Control Group, said the incidence of oesophageal adenocarcinoma (OAC) had increased markedly in Western populations in the past forty years.

“But some recent reports suggested that the rate of increase had slowed, or plateau-ed,” Dr Thrift said.

”I’m afraid our research shows that oesophageal adenocarcinoma rates are still rising in Australia and the United States, and will continue to rise in coming decades. It remains, in fact, the fastest rising cancer in Australia.”

About 700 Australians are diagnosed with OAC each year and the prognosis is grim. Seven in 10 patients will die within five years.

Dr Thrift’s research found the incidence in Australian men was increasing by about 2% each year.

“It’s a disease that predominantly affects men, occurring up to seven times more frequently than in women. Clinicians need to anticipate an increase in the numbers of men presenting with this potentially fatal cancer.”

Dr Thrift’s team have now developed a risk model to determine the likelihood of a person developing OAC in a five-year period.

“We’ve incorporated the known risk factors into the model, such as gastro-oesophageal reflux, obesity and smoking. We’ve also factored in aspirin intake, which has been shown to have positive health benefits,” Dr Thrift said.

“What this means is we can now determine who is at higher risk of developing OAC, and target them for cancer prevention strategies, including changes to their diet and lifestyle.”

QIMR has been given $2.4 million in Federal funding from the NHMRC to bring together Australia’s major oesophageal cancer research teams, in a Centre of Research Excellence.

Dr Thrift’s two studies were published in Annals of Oncology and Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

He was recently the recipient of a four-year NHMRC Early Career Fellowship.