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1.  A Prospective Study of Vitamin and Mineral Supplement Use and the Risk of Upper Gastrointestinal Cancers 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88774.
We examined the association of use of multivitamins or single vitamin/mineral supplements with risk of four upper gastrointestinal cancers in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study cohort with 11 years of follow-up. After exclusions, 490,593 persons were included in our analytic cohort and 1780 upper gastrointestinal cancers were accrued. Hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated using Cox models with adjustment for potential confounders. We observed no significant associations between multivitamin use and risk for the four cancer outcomes in crude or adjusted models. Among individual vitamin or mineral supplements, use of iron supplements was associated with significantly lower risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma (HR = 0.68, 95% CI = 0.49 to 0.94) and a significantly increased risk of gastric noncardia adenocarcinoma (HR = 1.59, 95% CI = 1.24 to 2.05). For gastric noncardia adenocarcinoma, we saw associations with zinc use (HR = 1.28, 95% CI = 1.01 to 1.62) and vitamin C use (HR = 0.79 95% CI = 0.65 to 0.96). Calcium use, some of which was reported as antacids and used to treat reflux disease, was associated with higher risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma (HR = 1.27, 95% CI = 1.06 to 1.52) and gastric cardia adenocarcinoma (HR = 1.27, 95% CI = 1.03 to 1.56) cancers. We saw no evidence that multivitamin use was associated with reduced risk of four highly fatal upper gastrointestinal cancers, but there were some differences in risk with reported use of individual supplements.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0088774
PMCID: PMC3928299  PMID: 24558423
2.  Alcohol and acetaldehyde in African fermented milk mursik – A possible etiological factor for high incidence of esophageal cancer in western Kenya 
Background
Esophageal cancer is unusually frequent in western Kenya, despite the low prevalence of classical risk factors such as heavy drinking and tobacco smoking. Among Kenyans consumption of fermented milk is an old tradition. Our hypothesis is that alcohol and acetaldehyde are produced during the fermentation process and that their carcinogenic potential contributes to the high incidence of esophageal cancer.
Methods
Eight samples of mursik milk starter cultures were collected from different Kalenjin families in the Rift Valley province, Western Kenya. A protocol provided by the families was used for milk fermentation. Ethanol and acetaldehyde levels were measured by gas chromatography. The microbial flora in starter cultures was identified by 16S and 18S sequencing.
Results
7/8 starter cultures produced mutagenic (>100 µM) levels of acetaldehyde and 4/8 starter cultures produced >1000 µM of acetaldehyde. The highest alcohol levels (mean 79.4 mM) were detected in the four fermented milks with highest acetaldehyde production. The mean number of microbial species in the starter cultures was 5 (range 2–8). Yeasts were identified in all starter cultures (mean 1.5 species/milk) but their proportion of the total microbial count varied markedly (mean 35%, range 7–90%). A combination of yeast and lactobacilli, especially Candida krusei with Lactobacillus kefiriwith the exclusion of other species, seemed to correlate with higher acetaldehyde and ethanol levels.
Conclusions
Significant levels of ethanol and acetaldehyde were produced during mursik fermentation.
Impact
When ingested several times daily the repeated exposure to carcinogenic levels of acetaldehyde may contribute to esophageal carcinogenesis.
doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-12-0908
PMCID: PMC3538938  PMID: 23155139
Candida; carcinogenesis; ethanol; fermented milk; lactobacilli
3.  Esophageal Cancer in Young People: A Case Series of 109 Cases and Review of the Literature 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(11):e14080.
Certain geographically distinct areas of the world have very high rates of esophageal cancer (EC). Previous studies have identified western Kenya as a high risk area for EC with an unusual percentage of cases in subjects 30 years of age or younger. To better understand EC in these young patients, we abstracted available data on all 109 young patients diagnosed with EC at Tenwek Hospital, Bomet District, Kenya from January 1996 through June 2009, including age at diagnosis, sex, ethnicity, tumor histology, residence location, and medical interventions. We also attempted to contact all patients or a family member and obtained information on ethnicity, tobacco and alcohol use, family history of cancer, and survival. Sixty (55%) representatives of the 109 young patients were successfully interviewed. The median survival time of these 60 patients was 6.4 months, the most common tumor histology was esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) (98%), the M:F ratio was 1.4∶1, and only a few subjects used tobacco (15%) or alcohol (15%). Seventy-nine percent reported a family history of cancer and 43% reported having a family history of EC. In summary, this case series describes the largest number of young EC patients reported to date, and it highlights the uniqueness of the EC experience in western Kenya.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0014080
PMCID: PMC2989919  PMID: 21124934
4.  COX2 (PTGS2) gene methylation in epithelial, subepithelial lymphocyte and stromal tissue compartments in a spectrum of esophageal squamous neoplasia 
Cancer detection and prevention  2008;32(2):135-139.
Background
Previous studies have shown important effects of stromal elements in carcinogenesis. To explore the tumor-stromal relationship in esophageal neoplasia, we examined methylation of COX-2 (PTGS2), a gene etiologically associated with the development of gastrointestinal cancers, in adjacent foci of epithelium, subepithelial lymphocytes and non-lymphocytic stromal cells found in sections of normal squamous epithelium, squamous dysplasia and invasive esophageal squamous cell carcinoma.
Methods
Adjacent foci of epithelium, subepithelial lymphocytic aggregates and non-lymphocytic stromal tissues were laser microdissected from six fully embedded, ethanol fixed, esophagectomy samples from Shanxi, China, a high-risk region for esophageal cancer. Promoter CpG site-specific hypermethylation status of COX-2 was determined using real-time methylation specific PCR (qMS-PCR) based on Taqman Chemistry. The methylation status of a subset of samples was confirmed by pyrosequencing.
Results
Forty-nine microdissected foci were analyzed. COX-2 gene methylation was significantly more common in subepithelial lymphocytes (12/16 (75% of all foci)) than in epithelial foci (3/16 (19%)) or foci of non-lymphocytic stromal tissues (3/17 (18%)) (Fisher’s Exact p=0.05). Two of three epithelial samples and all three stromal samples that showed COX-2 methylation were adjacent to foci of methylated subepithelial lymphocytes. Pyrosequencing confirmed the methylation status in a subset of samples.
Conclusions
In these esopohageal cancer patients, COX-2 gene methylation was more common in subepithelial lymphocytes than in adjacent epithelial or stromal cells in both grades of dysplasia and in foci of invasive cancer. These findings raise the possibility that methylation of subepithelial lymphocytes may be important for tumorigenesis. Future studies of gene methylation should consider separate evaluation of epithelial and non-epithelial cell populations.
Condensed abstract
COX2 (PTGS2) gene methylation increases with disease severity and is more common in subepithelial lymphocytes than in adjacent epithelial or stromal cells in dysplastic and early invasive esophageal squamous cell cancer foci.
doi:10.1016/j.cdp.2008.05.001
PMCID: PMC2629649  PMID: 18632220
esophagus; neoplasms; cancer; cyclooxgenase-2; precancerous conditions; methylation; lymphocytes; squamous cell cancer
5.  PROMOTER METHYLATION IN CYTOLOGY SPECIMENS AS AN EARLY DETECTION MARKER FOR ESOPHAGEAL SQUAMOUS DYSPLASIA AND EARLY ESOPHAGEAL SQUAMOUS CELL CARCINOMA 
The incidence of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) is very high in northern China. This cancer has a very poor prognosis, mostly because it is usually diagnosed at a late stage. Detection an earlier stage can dramatically improve prognosis. Microscopic evaluation of esophageal balloon cytology (EBC) specimens has been the most common method for early detection of ESCC, but this technique is limited by low sensitivity and specificity. The use of molecular markers may improve these screening characteristics. This study evaluates whether measurement of gene methylation in EBC specimens may have utility for the detection of esophageal squamous dysplasia and early ESCC. We evaluated the presence of methylation in eight genes shown to be methylated in ESCC in previous studies in EBC specimens from 147 patients with endoscopic biopsy diagnoses ranging from normal mucosa through severe squamous dysplasia. Methylation status was determined using quantitative methylation-specific PCR techniques. The sensitivity and specificity of methylation of each individual gene and combinations of these genes to detect biopsy-proven high-grade (moderate or severe) squamous dysplasia was determined. For individual genes, the sensitivities ranged from 9–34% and the specificities ranged from 77–99%. Using a panel of four genes (AHRR, p16INK4a, MT1G, and CLDN3) resulted in sensitivity and specificity of 50% and 68%, respectively. This study suggests that evaluation of gene methylation in EBC samples may have utility for early detection of esophageal squamous dysplasia and early ESCC, however, identification of more sensitive methylation markers will be required for development of a clinically useful screening test.
doi:10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-08-0061
PMCID: PMC2615136  PMID: 19137073
gene methylation; early detection; cytology; esophageal squamous cell cancer

Results 1-5 (5)