The worldwide rates for histology- and subsite-specific types of esophageal and gastric cancer reveal strikingly divergent patterns. The contribution of environmental and genetic factors has been explored in several high-incidence areas, but data on genetic influences are scarce for Western countries. Using data from a multicenter, population-based, case-control study on 1,143 cases and 695 controls in the United States, we evaluated whether a family history of digestive or other cancers was associated with an increased risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma (n = 293), esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (n = 221), gastric cardia adenocarcinoma (n = 261) or non-cardia gastric adenocarcinoma (n = 368). After adjusting for other risk factors, individuals reporting a family history of digestive cancers experienced no increased risk of either type of esophageal cancer but they were prone to adenocarcinomas of the gastric cardia [odds ratio (OR) = 1.34, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.91-1.97] and non-cardia segments (OR =1.46, 95% CI 1.03-2.08). This familial tendency, particularly for non-cardia gastric tumors, was largely explained by an association with family history of stomach cancer (OR = 2.52, 95% CI 1.50-4.23). In addition, family history of breast cancer was associated with increased risks of esophageal adenocarcinoma (OR = 1.74, 95% CI 1.07-2.83) and non-cardia gastric adenocarcinoma (OR = 1.76, 95% CI 1.09-2.82). Also seen were non-significant familial associations of esophageal squamous-cell cancer with prostate cancer as well as non-cardia gastric cancer with leukemia and brain tumors, though these relationships must be interpreted with caution. Our data point to the role of familial susceptibility to gastric cancer, but not to any form of esophageal cancer, in the United States.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.