Alert over signs of can­cer linked to obe­sity in men

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - News - Alan O’Ke­effe

HEART­BURN that keeps com­ing back could be an early sign of a can­cer which is set to dou­ble in Ire­land in the next two decades.

Men are the main suf­fer­ers of can­cer of the gul­let or wind­pipe, known as oe­sophageal can­cer. Grow­ing lev­els of obe­sity have been linked to the rapid rise of this can­cer in Ire­land, said re­searcher Dr Mar­garet Dunne.

“With more seden­tary life­styles and more obe­sity, it par­tic­u­larly af­fects men. We think it’s down to body shape, be­cause men tend to carry ‘the beer belly’ on the front, whereas women carry it on the hips,” she said.

“So it is go­ing to shoot up,” added Dr Dunne, as­sis­tant re­search pro­fes­sor work­ing at the Trin­ity Trans­la­tional Medicine In­sti­tute based at Saint James’s Hos­pi­tal in Dublin.

She is work­ing with a team of re­searchers ex­am­in­ing as­pects of the can­cer at the De­part­ment of Surgery in the hos­pi­tal. The team is led by Pro­fes­sor John Reynolds, a con­sul­tant gas­troen­terol­o­gist who is an au­thor­ity on the dis­ease.

“Two-thirds of pa­tients in Ire­land with oe­sophageal can­cer are men, mainly aged 60 or more, but in our re­search, a big­ger pro­por­tion [than that] are men,” said Dr Dunne.

There are two types of the can­cer which af­fects the wind­pipe and food­pipe. One is linked to smok­ing, and this type is de­creas­ing be­cause fewer peo­ple now smoke.

The other type is ade­no­car­ci­noma, which is a par­tic­u­lar fo­cus of the re­search in Dublin.

“We think the can­cer arises due to long-term dam­age to the oe­soph­a­gus. If you carry a lot of weight on your front in the belly re­gion, you could suf­fer from re­flux. So heart- burn can be a symp­tom. We are try­ing to raise aware­ness, but we don’t want to scare peo­ple. It is a rare can­cer, with around 350 cases a year in Ire­land,” Dr Dunne said. But too many peo­ple do not go to their doc­tor quickly enough, be­cause there can be a lack of symp­toms. As a re­sult, the five-year sur­vival rate can be as low as 15pc.

“There are very gen­eral symp­toms like hav­ing prob­lems swal­low­ing, or bloat­ing, or los­ing your voice or hoarse­ness for no ob­vi­ous rea­son,” she said.

Many pa­tients come for­ward when they have dif­fi­culty eat­ing. This usu­ally leads to an en­doscopy where a cam­era or scope is used, and a lump can be found to be caus­ing an ob­struc­tion.

Dr Dunne said: “If peo­ple out there are ig­nor­ing per­sis­tent heart­burn, then we are not go­ing to see them soon enough… If you’re pop­ping Ren­nies ev­ery day, you shouldn’t be. We try to make peo­ple aware of things like that, par­tic­u­larly if they are men over 50.

“Peo­ple with con­stant or per­sis­tent heart­burn should go to their GP. We want to spread aware­ness of oe­soph­a­gus can­cer among healthy peo­ple… So if a friend says they feel a bit hoarse for no rea­son, they can be en­cour­aged to get it checked out in­stead of ig­nor­ing it,” Dr Dunne added.

Dr Dunne will be one of many speak­ers at a free sem­i­nar on Wed­nes­day at the In­sti­tute from 5pm to 8pm who will speak about clin­i­cal tri­als be­ing con­ducted into dif­fer­ent med­i­cal con­di­tions.

The sem­i­nar is or­gan­ised by the Cen­tre for In­for­ma­tion and Study on Clin­i­cal Re­search Par­tic­i­pa­tion.

Peo­ple will get a chance to learn how clin­i­cal tri­als for new medicines are car­ried out and how to par­tic­i­pate.

To reg­is­ter in ad­vance, see aware­forall.org.

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