Alcohol drinking, cigarette smoking, and the development of squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus: epidemiology, clinical findings, and prevention

Int J Clin Oncol. 2010 Apr;15(2):126-34. doi: 10.1007/s10147-010-0056-7. Epub 2010 Mar 12.


Both cigarette smoking and alcohol drinking are well-established risk factors for esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC), and the relationship of dose to cancer risk has already been described. Furthermore, the synergistic effect of these two factors has been reported. Our case-control study revealed the odds ratio of ESCC to be 50.1 for those who were both heavy smokers and heavy drinkers in comparison to people who neither drank nor smoked. In patients with ESCC, head and neck cancers as well as dysplastic lesions are frequently observed. Heavy smoking and heavy drinking are closely related to such multicentric carcinogenesis events in the upper aerodigestive tract (UADT), including the esophagus and head andneck region. Polymorphisms in acetaldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2) are reported to be a key event in deciding individual susceptibility to UADT cancer. Patients with inactive ALDH2, in whom facial flushing is usually observed after the drinking of alcohol, are at high risk for ESCC as well as multiple UADT cancers. For the early detection of the disease, effective follow up using endoscopy with Lugol staining or narrow band imaging endoscopy is strongly recommended for high-risk populations, such as smokers, heavy drinkers, people with experience of flushing after the drinking of alcohol, and patients with UADT cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase / genetics
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase, Mitochondrial
  • Animals
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / etiology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / prevention & control
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / genetics
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Esophagoscopy
  • Female
  • Flushing / etiology
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Smoking / epidemiology


  • ALDH2 protein, human
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase, Mitochondrial