Background: Worldwide population-based studies suggest that the incidence of oesophageal and gastric cardia adenocarcinomas has increased since the 1970s.
Objective and methods: We studied time trends in mortality and incidence rates of oesophageal and gastric carcinomas according to subsite and histology in the south-east Netherlands since 1978.
Results: The age-adjusted mortality and incidence rates for oesophageal cancer doubled in males over the entire 19-year study period from 2.7 to 5.6 and from 2.4 to 4.8 per 100,000 person years, respectively. In females, a similar trend for the mortality and incidence rates was seen, but at a lower level. The age-adjusted mortality and incidence rates for gastric cancer decreased with time from 20.7 to 12.8 and from 21.6 to 15.9 per 100,000 person years in males, respectively. In females, age-adjusted mortality and incidence rates for gastric cancer also decreased. Analysis of incidence rates by subsite and subtype showed an increase in adenocarcinomas of the oesophagus and gastric cardia, largely restricted to males. In females, the rise in incidence of squamous cell carcinoma of the oesophagus appeared to be more marked than the rise in adenocarcinomas, whereas the incidence of gastric cardia carcinomas has remained stable over the last 10 years. Neither the decrease in the number of unspecified tumours with time, nor the increase in the use of diagnostic endoscopy and imaging techniques, is likely to explain completely the observed increases.
Conclusion: The increase in incidence of adenocarcinomas at the gastro-oesophageal junction in the south-eastern Netherlands seems, at least in part, to represent a true underlying increase that is restricted largely to males.