Background: Hormonal factors may influence risk for upper gastrointestinal cancers in women. We examined risk of oesophageal and gastric cancers in relation to reproductive factors in a large UK cohort, the Million Women Study.
Methods: Among 1,319,409 women aged on average 56 years at recruitment, 1186 incident cancers of the oesophagus and 1194 of the stomach were registered during 11.9 million person-years' observation. Adjusted relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated using Cox proportional hazards models.
Results: Risks of both oesophageal and gastric cancer were significantly higher in postmenopausal than in pre- or peri-menopausal women (RRs 1.46, 1.07-2.00 and 1.59, 1.15-2.20, respectively; P≤0.01 for both); and, among postmenopausal women, risk was higher the younger women were at menopause (RR, 95% CI per 5 years younger at menopause 1.18, 1.05-1.34 for oesophageal cancer and 1.18, 1.04-1.34 for stomach cancer, P(trend)=0.01 for both). For factors relating to childbearing, including women's age at first birth, their number of children, and breastfeeding history, the only significant association was a higher risk of oesophageal cancer in nulliparous, compared with parous, women (RR 1.31, 1.11-1.55; P=0.002). When risks for squamous cell and adenocarcinomas of the oesophagus were compared, most did not differ significantly, but statistical power was limited.
Conclusion: Both oesophageal and gastric cancer risks appeared to be related to menopausal status and age at menopause, but there was little consistent evidence for associations with factors related to childbearing.