Epidemiology of cancer of the small intestine

World J Gastrointest Oncol. 2011 Mar 15;3(3):33-42. doi: 10.4251/wjgo.v3.i3.33.


Cancer of the small intestine is very uncommon. There are 4 main histological subtypes: adenocarcinomas, carcinoid tumors, lymphoma and sarcoma. The incidence of small intestine cancer has increased over the past several decades with a four-fold increase for carcinoid tumors, less dramatic rises for adenocarcinoma and lymphoma and stable sarcoma rates. Very little is known about its etiology. An increased risk has been noted for individuals with Crohn's disease, celiac disease, adenoma, familial adenomatous polyposis and Peutz-Jeghers syndrome. Several behavioral risk factors including consumption of red or smoked meat, saturated fat, obesity and smoking have been suggested. The prognosis for carcinomas of the small intestine cancer is poor (5 years relative survival < 30%), better for lymphomas and sarcomas, and best for carcinoid tumors. There has been no significant change in long-term survival rates for any of the 4 histological subtypes. Currently, with the possible exceptions of obesity and cigarette smoking, there are no established modifiable risk factors which might provide the foundation for a prevention program aimed at reducing the incidence and mortality of cancers of the small intestine. More research with better quality and sufficient statistical power is needed to get better understanding of the etiology and biology of this cancer. In addition, more studies should be done to assess not only exposures of interest, but also host susceptibility.

Keywords: Cancer of the small intestine; Histology; Incidence; Risk factors; Survival.