Systematic review: epidemiology of oesophageal cancer in Sub-Saharan Africa

Malawi Med J. 2010 Sep;22(3):65-70. doi: 10.4314/mmj.v22i3.62190.


Background: Currently, oesophageal cancer is not a public health priority disease in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Aim: Analysis of published scientific studies regarding oesophageal cancer in Sub-Saharan Africa was done to ascertain the incidence, prevalence and geographical distribution of the disease in the region.

Methods: A pub med literature search was conducted for articles ranging from 1950 to 2009 database involving the following key words: oesophageal carcinoma, incidence, prevalence and sub-Saharan Africa.

Results: 54 articles were retrieved, of which 16 were analyzed. Differences in the study methodologies used made the comparison amongst studies difficult. Overall, however, studies show that oesophageal cancer is on the increase in the region with its epicenter in the eastern and southern Africa. Incidence of the disease is higher in males than females and is prominent among 45-64 years age group in both sexes. Squamous cell carcinoma is a cell type more common than adenocarcinoma.

Conclusion: Oesophageal cancer is on the increase in the Sub-Saharan African Region with uneven geographical distribution. Therefore, countries in the region are encouraged together with global health organizations to include oesophageal cancer amongst diseases of public health importance for effective prevention, early diagnosis and effective treatment.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / epidemiology*
  • Adult
  • Africa South of the Sahara / epidemiology
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / epidemiology*
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Factors
  • Young Adult