Background: Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) is a major health problem in many developing countries including Iran. ESCC has a very poor prognosis, largely due to late diagnosis. As a first step in developing an early detection and treatment program, we conducted a population-based endoscopic screening for ESCC and its precursor lesion, esophageal squamous dysplasia (ESD) in asymptomatic adults from Golestan Province, northern Iran, a high-risk area for ESCC, to evaluate the feasibility of such a program and to document the prevalence and risk factor correlates of ESD.
Methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted among participants of the Golestan Cohort Study (GCS), a population-based cohort of 50,000 adults in eastern Golestan Province. Randomly selected GCS participants were invited by telephone. Those who accepted were referred to a central endoscopy clinic. Eligible subjects were consented and then asked to fill in a brief questionnaire. Detailed information about selected risk factors was obtained from the GCS main database. Endoscopic examination with Lugol's iodine staining was performed, biopsies were taken from unstained lesions as well as the normally stained mucosa of the esophagus, and the biopsies were diagnosed by expert pathologists according to previously described criteria.
Results: In total, 1906 GCS subjects were invited, of whom only 302 subjects (15.8%) were successfully enrolled. Esophagitis (29.5%) and ESD (6.0%) were the most common pathological diagnoses. Turkmen ethnicity (adjusted OR = 8.61; 95%CI: 2.48-29.83), being older than the median age (OR = 7.7; 95% CI: 1.99-29.87), and using deep frying cooking methods (OR = 4.65; 95%CI: 1.19-18.22) were the strongest predictors for ESD. There were significant relationships between esophagitis and smoking (p-value<0.001), drinking hot tea (P value = 0.02) and lack of education (P value = 0.004).
Conclusion: We observed a low rate for participation in endoscopic screening. Overall prevalence of ESD was 6.0%. Developing non-endoscopic primary screening methods and screening individuals with one or more risk factors may improve these rates.