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Researchers ID Genetic Markers for Esophageal Cancer

Having 4 or more of these 11 genotypes triples risk of disease, study funds

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Eleven genetic variations believed to be predictors of esophageal cancer have been identified by U.S. researchers.

The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center team pinpointed 11 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in microRNA-related genes that showed an association with esophageal cancer.

Each of these unfavorable genotypes was linked with an increased risk of cancer. People with more than four of the 11 genotypes had a more than threefold increased risk of esophageal cancer, according to the study, published in the November issue of Cancer Prevention Research.

"Our ultimate goal is to construct a quantitative cancer risk prediction model based on an individual's epidemiological profile, environment exposure and genetic makeup. This risk prediction model can evaluate each person's relative risk and absolute risk of developing esophageal cancer within a certain time period," study author Dr. Xifeng Wu, a professor in the department of epidemiology, said in an American Association for Cancer Research news release.

Esophageal cancer is the fastest growing cancer in the United States, and the majority of patients are diagnosed at an advanced stage. Being able to identify people at high risk for the disease may improve screening, monitoring and prevention.

"Considering the dramatic increase in incidence, difficulty of early diagnosis, the poor survival rate for esophageal cancer, and the limited knowledge of the natural history of the tumor, we need a greater understanding of the etiology of esophageal cancer for improvement of diagnosis and hopefully a better prognosis," Wu said.

Along with genetics, other risk factors for esophageal cancer include obesity, smoking and gastrointestinal reflux disease.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about esophageal cancer.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research, news release, Nov. 5, 2008

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