The occurrence of chronic esophagitis, considered a precursor condition for esophageal cancer, among persons 15 to 26 yr of age and risk factors for the disease were investigated in Huixian, Henan Province, a high-risk area for esophageal cancer in the People's Republic of China. The 538 study subjects underwent an esophagoscopy with guided biopsies and cytology, a physical examination, an interview with a questionnaire including known and suspected risk factors for esophageal lesions, and collection of a 10-ml blood sample and overnight urine. One-third of the subjects was selected from households with a case of esophageal cancer in the past 6 yr and two-thirds came from control households. Histologically confirmed very mild, mild, and moderate esophagitis was observed in 31.6%, 10.7%, and 1.1% of 354 male and 30.4%, 4.3%, and 1.1% of 184 female subjects, respectively. In the multivariate case-control analysis of mild and moderate esophagitis compared with very mild esophagitis and normal subjects, the prevalence of mild and moderate disease was found to be positively associated with the consumption of burning hot beverages [odds ratio (OR) = 4.7], the prevalence of esophagitis among siblings (OR = 4.4), and family history of esophageal cancer (OR = 1.8) and negatively associated with the frequent consumption of fresh fruits (OR = 0.3) and wheat flour products (OR = 0.4). Weaker associations were seen for cigarette smoking and the use of cottonseed oil as the main cooking oil. Univariate associations seen with a clinical diagnosis of oral leukoplakia (OR = 2.7) and seborrheic dermatitis (OR = 3.7) are probably due to common risk factors such as smoking and nutritional deficiency. The present findings suggest that exposures early in life to environmental risk factors and nutritional deficiency may be responsible for inflammation and a weakened esophageal epithelium, resulting in a condition possibly more favorable for the development of esophageal cancer.
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- Received October 5, 1989.
- Revision received December 8, 1989.
- ©1990 American Association for Cancer Research.