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1.  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
2.  Frequent occurrence of esophageal cancer in young people in western Kenya 
Esophageal cancer has a strikingly uneven geographical distribution, resulting in focal endemic areas in several countries. One such endemic area is in western Kenya. We conducted a retrospective review of all pathology-confirmed malignancies diagnosed at Tenwek Hospital, Bomet District, between January 1999 and September 2007. Tumor site, histology, sex, age, ethnicity, and location of residence were recorded. Cases were analyzed within and outside a traditional catchment area defined as ≤ 50 km from the hospital. Since 1999, the five most common cancer sites were esophagus, stomach, prostate, colorectum, and cervix. Esophageal cancer accounted for 914 (34.6%) of the 2643 newly diagnosed cancers, and showed increasing trends within and outside the catchment area. Fifty-eight (6.3%) patients were ≤ 30 years old and 9 (1%) were ≤ 20 years old; the youngest patient was 14 at diagnosis. Young cases (≤30) were more common among patients of Kalenjin ethnicity (9.2%) than among other ethnicities (1.7%) (odds ratio (95%CI) 5.7 (2.1–15.1)). This area of western Kenya is a high-risk region for esophageal cancer, and appears unique in its large proportion of young patients. Our findings support the need for further study of both environmental and genetic risk factors for esophageal cancer in this area.
doi:10.1111/j.1442-2050.2009.00977.x
PMCID: PMC3505035  PMID: 19473205
Esophageal cancer; Kenya; age of onset; ethnicity
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

Results 1-3 (3)