Metabolic syndrome appears to be associated with an increased risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma in older men without gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD) and in older females irrespective of GERD status, according to a study published in the journal Cancer.1

Metabolic syndrome is associated with an increased risk of cancer and Barrett esophagus, a precursor lesion of esophageal cancer, typically in the absence of GERD. Because there is little evidence about whether metabolic syndrome correlates with the risk of esophageal cancer, researchers sought to retrospectively evaluate the risk of esophageal cancer in older patients with regard to GERD status.

For the study, investigators analyzed data from 3167 esophageal adenocarcinoma cases and individually matched population controls. A subset of 575 esophageal adenocarcinoma cases was also matched with 575 controls with Barrett esophagus. Metabolic syndrome was defined according to International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) codes 1 to 3 years prior to cancer diagnosis or control selection.

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Results showed that metabolic syndrome was associated with significant 16% higher risk of developing esophageal adenocarcinoma compared with population controls (odds ratio [OR], 1.16; 95% CI, 1.06-1.26).

Among men, researchers found that metabolic syndrome correlated with esophageal cancer only in those without a history of GERD; however, metabolic syndrome was associated with esophageal cancer regardless of GERD status in women.

The study further demonstrated that metabolic syndrome was not associated with esophageal cancer risk when compared with Barrett esophagus controls, suggesting that metabolic syndrome may increase esophageal cancer risk by primarily increasing the risk of Barrett esophagus.


1. Drahos J, Ricker W, Pfeiffer RM, Cook MB. Metabolic syndrome and risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma in elderly patients in the United States: an analysis of SEER-Medicare data. Cancer. 2016 Nov 8. doi: 10.1002/cncr.30365. [Epub ahead of print]