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1.  Mortality and cancer in relation to ABO blood group phenotypes in the Golestan Cohort Study 
BMC Medicine  2015;13:8.
Background
A few studies have shown an association between blood group alleles and vascular disease, including atherosclerosis, which is thought to be due to the higher level of von Willebrand factor in these individuals and the association of blood group locus variants with plasma lipid levels. No large population-based study has explored this association with overall and cause-specific mortality.
Methods
We aimed to study the association between ABO blood groups and overall and cause-specific mortality in the Golestan Cohort Study. In this cohort, 50,045 people 40- to 70-years old were recruited between 2004 and 2008, and followed annually to capture all incident cancers and deaths due to any cause. We used Cox regression models adjusted for age, sex, smoking, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, place of residence, education and opium use.
Results
During a total of 346,708 person-years of follow-up (mean duration 6.9 years), 3,623 cohort participants died. Non-O blood groups were associated with significantly increased total mortality (hazard ratio (HR) = 1.09; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.01 to 1.17) and cardiovascular disease mortality (HR = 1.15; 95% CI: 1.03 to 1.27). Blood group was not significantly associated with overall cancer mortality, but people with group A, group B, and all non-O blood groups combined had increased risk of incident gastric cancer. In a subgroup of cohort participants, we also showed higher plasma total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in those with blood group A.
Conclusions
Non-O blood groups have an increased mortality, particularly due to cardiovascular diseases, which may be due to the effect of blood group alleles on blood biochemistry or their effect on von Willebrand factor and factor VIII levels.
Please see related commentary 10.1186/s12916-014-0250-y.
doi:10.1186/s12916-014-0237-8
PMCID: PMC4295491  PMID: 25592833
Blood group; ABO; Rh; Mortality; Cancer; Cardiovascular disease
2.  PAH exposure in esophageal tissue and risk of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma in northeastern Iran 
Gut  2010;59(9):1178-1183.
Objective
To evaluate the association of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) exposure in esophageal epithelial tissue and esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) case status in an ESCC case-control study in a high-risk population in northeastern Iran.
Design
Immunohistochemical staining of tissue microarrays (TMAs) of non-tumoral esophageal biopsies from ESCC cases and control subjects. Immunohistochemistry was performed using monoclonal antibodies 8E11 and 5D11, raised against benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P) diol epoxide (BPDE)-I-modified guanosine and BPDE-I-modified DNA, respectively. Staining intensity was quantified by image analysis, and the average staining in three replicates was calculated.
Setting
Rural region in northeastern Iran.
Participants
Cases were patients with biopsy-proven ESCC. Controls were GI clinic patients with no endoscopic or biopsy evidence of ESCC.
Main outcome measure
Adjusted odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) for the association between antibody staining intensity and ESCC case status.
Results
Cultured ESCC cells exposed to B[a]P in vitro showed dose-dependent staining with 8E11, but not with 5D11. With 8E11, sufficient epithelial tissue was available in the TMA cores to analyze 91 cases and 103 controls. Compared to the lowest quintile of 8E11 staining in the controls, adjusted ORs (95% CIs) for the 2nd to 5th quintiles were 2.42, 5.77, 11.3, and 26.6 (5.21–135), respectively (P for trend < 0.001). With 5D11, 89 cases and 101 controls were analyzed. No association between staining and case status was observed (ORs (95% CIs) for the 2nd to 5th quintiles were 1.26, 0.88, 1.06, and 1.63 (0.63–4.21), P for trend = 0.40).
Conclusions
Dramatically higher levels of 8E11 staining were observed in non-tumoral esophageal epithelium from ESCC patients than from control subjects. This finding strengthens the evidence for a causal role for PAHs in esophageal carcinogenesis in northeastern Iran.
doi:10.1136/gut.2010.210609
PMCID: PMC3505022  PMID: 20584779
esophageal squamous cell carcinoma; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; immunohistochemistry; tissue microarray
3.  Reproductive factors and risk of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma in northern Iran- A case-control study in a high risk area and literature review 
Background
Several epidemiologic studies have suggested an inverse association between female reproductive factors and risk of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC), but the evidence is not conclusive. We investigated the association of the number of pregnancies, live-births, and miscarriages/stillbirths in women and the association of the number of children in both sexes with ESCC risk in Golestan Province, a high-risk area in Iran.
Methods
Data from 297 histopathologically confirmed ESCC cases (149 women) and 568 controls (290 women) individually matched to cases for age, sex, and neighborhood of residence were included in this analysis. Conditional logistic regression was used to calculate odds ratios (ORs) and corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CIs).
Results
The average numbers of live-births and miscarriages/stillbirths among controls were 8.2 and 0.8, respectively. Women with 6 or more live-births were at approximately one-third the risk of ESCC as those with 0–3 live-births; the OR (95% CI) for having 6–7 live-births was 0.33 (0.12–0.92). In contrast, the number of miscarriages/stillbirths was associated with an increase in ESCC risk. The OR (95% CI) for ≥ 3 versus no miscarriages/stillbirths was 4.43 (2.11–9.33). The number of children in women was suggestive an inverse association with ESCC, but this association was not statistically significant; in men, no association was seen.
Conclusion
The findings of this study support a protective influence of female hormonal factors on ESCC risk. However, further epidemiological and mechanistic studies are needed to prove a protective association.
doi:10.1097/CEJ.0b013e32835c7f87
PMCID: PMC3731403  PMID: 23238586
case-control study; esophageal cancer; miscarriage; parity; reproductive; squamous cell carcinoma
4.  Opium; an emerging risk factor for gastric adenocarcinoma 
Opium use has been associated with higher risk of cancers of the esophagus, bladder, larynx, and lung; however, no previous study has examined its association with gastric cancer. There is also little information on the associations between hookah (water pipe) smoking or the chewing of tobacco products and the risk of gastric cancer. In a case-control study in Golestan Province of Iran, we enrolled 309 cases of gastric adenocarcinoma (118 noncardia, 161 cardia, and 30 mixed-location adenocarcinomas) and 613 matched controls. Detailed information on long-term use of opium, tobacco products, and other covariates were collected using structured and validated lifestyle and food frequency questionnaires. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were obtained using conditional logistic regression models. Opium use was associated with an increased risk of gastric adenocarcinoma, with an adjusted OR (95% CI) of 3.1 (1.9 – 5.1), and this increased risk was apparent for both anatomic subsites (cardia and noncardia). There was a dose-response effect, and individuals with the highest cumulative opium use had the strongest association (OR: 4.5; 95%CI: 2.3-8.5). We did not find a statistically significant association between the use of any of the tobacco products and risk of gastric adenocarcinoma, overall or by anatomic subsite. We showed, for the first time, an association between opium use and gastric adenocarcinoma. Given that opium use is a traditional practice in many parts of the world, these results are of public health significance.
doi:10.1002/ijc.28018
PMCID: PMC3644384  PMID: 23319416
Opium; Adenocarcinoma; Cardia
5.  Variation in PAH-related DNA adduct levels among non-smokers: the role of multiple genetic polymorphisms and nucleotide excision repair phenotype 
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) likely play a role in many cancers even in never-smokers. We tried to find a model to explain the relationship between variation in PAH-related DNA adduct levels among people with similar exposures, multiple genetic polymorphisms in genes related to metabolic and repair pathways, and nucleotide excision repair (NER) capacity. In 111 randomly-selected female never-smokers from the Golestan Cohort Study in Iran, we evaluated 21 SNPs in 14 genes related to xenobiotic metabolism and 12 SNPs in 8 DNA repair genes. NER capacity was evaluated by a modified comet assay, and aromatic DNA adduct levels were measured in blood by 32P-postlabelling. Multivariable regression models were compared by Akaike’s information criterion (AIC). Aromatic DNA adduct levels ranged between 1.7 and 18.6 per 108 nucleotides (mean: 5.8±3.1). DNA adduct level was significantly lower in homozygotes for NAT2 slow alleles and ERCC5 non risk-allele genotype, and was higher in the MPO homozygote risk-allele genotype. The sum of risk alleles in these genes significantly correlated with the log-adduct level (r=0.4, p<0.001). Compared with the environmental model, adding phase I SNPs and NER capacity provided the best fit, and could explain 17% more of the variation in adduct levels. NER capacity was affected by polymorphisms in the MTHFR and ERCC1 genes. Female non-smokers in this population had PAH-related DNA adduct levels 3-4 times higher than smokers and occupationally-exposed groups in previous studies, with large inter-individual variation which could best be explained by a combination of phase I genes and NER capacity.
doi:10.1002/ijc.27953
PMCID: PMC3597757  PMID: 23175176
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; DNA adducts; nucleotide excision repair; polymorphism
6.  Association of tooth loss and oral hygiene with risk of gastric adenocarcinoma 
Introduction
Poor oral health and tooth loss have been proposed as possible risk factors for some chronic diseases, including gastric cancer. However only a small number of studies have tested these associations.
Method
We conducted a case-control study in Golestan Province, Iran, that enrolled 309 cases diagnosed with gastric adenocarcinoma (118 noncardia, 161 cardia, and 30 mixed-locations) and 613 sex, age and neighborhood matched controls. Data on oral health were obtained through physical examination and questionnaire including tooth loss, the number of decayed, missing, and filled teeth, and frequency of tooth brushing. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were obtained using conditional logistic regression models adjusted for potential confounders. Standard one degree-of-freedom linear trend test and a multiple degree of freedom global test of the effect of adding oral hygiene variables to the model were also calculated.
Results
Our results showed apparent associations between tooth loss and DMFT score with risk of gastric cancer, overall and at each anatomic subsite. However, these associations were not monotonic and were strongly confounded by age. The results also showed that subjects who brushed their teeth less than daily were at significantly higher risk for gastric cardia adenocarcinoma OR (95% CI) of 5.6 (1.6–19.3).
Discussion
We found evidence for an association between oral health and gastric cancer, but the non- monotonic association, the relatively strong effect of confounder adjustment, and inconsistent results across studies must temper the strength of any conclusions.
doi:10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-12-0491
PMCID: PMC3644330  PMID: 23503651
Adenocarcinoma; Tooth loss; Oral health; Stomach
7.  Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease and overall and Cause-specific Mortality: A Prospective Study of 50000 Individuals 
BACKGROUND
Only a few studies in Western countries have investigated the association between gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and mortality at the general population level and they have shown mixed results. This study investigated the association between GERD symptoms and overall and cause-specific mortality in a large prospective population-based study in Golestan Province, Iran.
METHODS
Baseline data on frequency, onset time, and patient-perceived severity of GERD symptoms were available for 50001 participants in the Golestan Cohort Study (GCS). We identified 3107 deaths (including 1146 circulatory and 470 cancer-related) with an average follow-up of 6.4 years and calculated hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) adjusted for multiple potential confounders.
RESULTS
Severe daily symptoms (defined as symptoms interfering with daily work or causing nighttime awakenings on a daily bases, reported by 4.3% of participants) were associated with cancer mortality (HR 1.48, 95% CI: 1.04-2.05). This increase was too small to noticeably affect overall mortality. Mortality was not associated with onset time or frequency of GERD and was not increased with mild to moderate symptoms.
CONCLUSION
We have observed an association with GERD and increased cancer mortality in a small group of individuals that had severe symptoms. Most patients with mild to moderate GERD can be re-assured that their symptoms are not associated with increased mortality.
PMCID: PMC4034667  PMID: 24872865
Cardiovascular disease; Esophageal cancer; Gastroesophageal reflux disease; Mortality
8.  A U-shaped relationship between haematocrit and mortality in a large prospective cohort study 
Background Only a limited number of studies have investigated the correlation between haematocrit (HCT) and mortality in the general population, and few of those studies have had data on a wide range of low and high levels of HCT. We investigated the association between baseline HCT and mortality in a prospective cohort study of 49 983 adult subjects in Iran with a broad spectrum of HCT values.
Methods Data on socio-demographic and life-style factors, past medical history, and levels of HCT were collected at enrollment. During a mean follow-up of 5 years (follow-up success rate ∼99%), 2262 deaths were reported. Cox proportional hazards regression models were used to estimate hazard ratios and corresponding 95% confidence intervals.
Results There was a U-shaped relationship between categories of HCT and mortality in both sexes: both low and high levels of HCT were associated with increased overall mortality and mortality from cardiovascular disease. The U-shaped relationship persisted after several sensitivity analyses were done, including analyses restricted to non-smokers and non-users of opium; analyses excluding deaths from accidents and other external causes as well as deaths of persons with self-reported ischemic heart disease at the baseline interview for the study; and analyses excluding the first 2 years of follow-up. Self-reported past medical history and lack of data about lipids and other cellular blood components were the major limitations of the study.
Conclusions Low and high levels of HCT are associated with increased mortality in the general population. The findings in the present study can be of particular importance for low- and middle-income countries in which a substantial proportion of the population lives with suboptimal levels of HCT.
doi:10.1093/ije/dyt013
PMCID: PMC3619954  PMID: 23569195
Anaemia; cancer; cardiovascular disease; erythrocytosis; haematocrit; mortality
9.  Determinants of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, Including Hookah Smoking and Opium Use– A Cross-Sectional Analysis of 50,000 Individuals 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e89256.
Background
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common cause of discomfort and morbidity worldwide. However, information on determinants of GERD from large-scale studies in low- to medium-income countries is limited. We investigated the factors associated with different measures of GERD symptoms, including frequency, patient-perceived severity, and onset time.
Methods
We performed a cross-sectional analysis of the baseline data from a population-based cohort study of ∼50,000 individuals in in Golestan Province, Iran. GERD symptoms in this study included regurgitation and/or heartburn.
Results
Approximately 20% of participants reported at least weekly symptoms. Daily symptoms were less commonly reported by men, those of Turkmen ethnicity, and nass chewers. On the other hand, age, body mass index, alcohol drinking, cigarette smoking, opium use, lower socioeconomic status, and lower physical activity were associated with daily symptoms. Most of these factors showed similar associations with severe symptoms. Women with higher BMI and waist to hip ratio were more likely to report frequent and severe GERD symptoms. Hookah smoking (OR 1.34, 95% CI 1.02–1.75) and opium use (OR 1.70, 95% CI 1.55–1.87) were associated with severe symptoms, whereas nass chewing had an inverse association (OR 0.87, 95% CI 0.76–0.99). After exclusion of cigarette smokers, hookah smoking was still positively associated and nass chewing was inversely associated with GERD symptoms (all frequencies combined).
Conclusion
GERD is common in this population. The associations of hookah and opium use and inverse association of nass use with GERD symptoms are reported for the first time. Further studies are required to investigate the nature of these associations. Other determinants of GERD were mostly comparable to those reported elsewhere.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0089256
PMCID: PMC3931722  PMID: 24586635
10.  Smoking water-pipe, chewing nass, and prevalence of heart disease – A cross-sectional analysis of baseline data from the Golestan Cohort Study, Iran 
Heart (British Cardiac Society)  2012;99(4):272-278.
Objective
Water-pipe and smokeless tobacco use have been associated with several adverse health outcomes. However, little information is available on the association between water-pipe use and heart disease (HD). Therefore, we investigated the association of smoking water-pipe and chewing nass (a mixture of tobacco, lime, and ash) with prevalent HD.
Design
Cross-sectional study.
Setting
Baseline data (collected in 2004–2008) from a prospective population-based study in Golestan Province, Iran.
Participants
50,045 residents of Golestan (40–75 years old; 42.4% male).
Main outcome measures
ORs and 95% CIs from multivariate logistic regression models for the association of water-pipe and nass use with HD prevalence.
Results
A total of 3051 (6.1%) participants reported a history of HD, and 525 (1.1%) and 3726 (7.5%) reported ever water-pipe or nass use, respectively. Heavy water-pipe smoking was significantly associated with HD prevalence (highest level of cumulative use versus never use, OR= 3.75; 95% CI 1.52 – 9.22; P for trend= 0.04). This association persisted when using different cutoff points, when restricting HD to those taking nitrate compound medications, and among never cigarette smokers. There was no significant association between nass use and HD prevalence (highest category of use versus never use, OR= 0.91; 95% CI 0.69 – 1.20).
Conclusions
Our study suggests a significant association between HD and heavy water-pipe smoking. Although the existing evidence suggesting similar biological consequences of water-pipe and cigarette smoking make this association plausible, results of our study were based on a modest number of water-pipe users and need to be replicated in further studies.
doi:10.1136/heartjnl-2012-302861
PMCID: PMC3671096  PMID: 23257174
hookah; ischemic heart disease; nass; tobacco; water-pipe
11.  The gastro-esophageal malignancies in Northern Iran research project: impact on the health research and health care systems in Iran 
Archives of Iranian medicine  2013;16(1):46-53.
Since 2000, considerable progress has been made in health research in Iran. An example of this progress has been the Gastro- Esophageal Malignancies in Northern Iran (GEMINI). The original aim of this project was to identify etiologic factors and prevention measures for upper gastrointestinal cancers in Northern provinces of Iran, but its achievements have gone much beyond the initial goal. This project is one of the largest studies in the Middle East and North African region, has helped build and strengthen research capacity at both individual and institutional levels in Iran, and has provided international credibility to research institutes and the wider research system in Iran. The success of GEMINI reveals the feasibility of large-scale studies in developing countries and serves as a successful model not only for health research institutes within Iran, but also for research systems in other developing countries. The outcomes of the project are numerous, including establishment of research networks, development of efficient methods for planning and implementation of research projects, and introduction of methodologies for project management, data management and usage of health technology. Finally and perhaps most importantly, GEMINI is among the few projects that has had a significant impact on the attitudes and concerns of decision makers in the health sector in Iran. It signifies the importance of investment in human resources and has proved that health policies should be health-based rather than patient-based. Here we review the impact of GEMINI on the health research system and the broader health care system of Iran and put these into a more global perspective.
PMCID: PMC3659328  PMID: 23273237
research design; prospective studies; pilot projects; feasibility studies; planning techniques; methods; cancer epidemiology; gastroenterology
12.  Iron in Relation to Gastric Cancer in the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study 
Background
Iron is an essential micronutrient that can have carcinogenic effects when at high or low concentrations. Previous studies of iron in relation to gastric cancer have not assessed subtype-specific relationships. We used the prospective ATBC Cancer Prevention Study to assess whether iron metrics were associated with gastric cardia cancer (GCC) and gastric noncardia cancer (GNCC).
Methods
We selected 341 incident gastric cancer cases (86 cardia, 172 noncardia, and 83 non-specified), accrued during 22 years of follow-up, and 341 individually matched controls. We measured prediagnostic serum iron, ferritin, unsaturated iron binding capacity (UIBC), and C-reactive protein. Total iron binding capacity (TIBC) and transferrin saturation were estimated from these metrics. Dietary iron exposures were estimated from a food frequency questionnaire. Multivariable logistic regression was used for analysis.
Results
Serum iron metrics were not associated with GCC, except for a potential ‘n’-shaped relationship with TIBC (global p=0.038). GNCC was inversely associated with serum ferritin (global p=0.024), serum iron (global p=0.060) and, possibly, transferrin saturation. TIBC appeared to share a ‘u’shaped relationship with GNCC (global p=0.033). Dietary iron exposures were not associated with either subsite. Adjustment for Helicobacter pylori and gastric atrophy had little effect on observed associations.
Conclusions
We found little evidence for the involvement of iron exposure in the pathogenesis of GCC. GNCC was associated with an iron profile similar to that of iron deficiency.
doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-12-0799
PMCID: PMC3493744  PMID: 23001240
Helicobacter pylori; Iron; Nested Case-Control Studies; Prospective Studies; Stomach Neoplasms
13.  InterSCOPE Study: Associations Between Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Human Papillomavirus Serological Markers 
Background
The role of human papillomavirus (HPV) in the causation of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma is unclear. We examined the associations between esophageal squamous cell carcinoma and 28 centrally measured HPV serological markers in serum from six existing case–control studies conducted in regions with differing background risks of esophageal cancer.
Methods
We used centralized multiplex serology to test serum samples from 1561 case subjects and 2502 control subjects from six case–control studies for antibodies to the major HPV capsid protein (L1) and/or the early proteins E6 and/or E7 of eight high-risk, two low-risk, and four cutaneous HPV types. Study-specific odds ratios (ORs) and corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated using conditional logistic regression with adjustment for smoking, alcohol consumption, and other potential confounders. Pooled odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals were calculated using either a linear mixed-effects approach or a joint fixed-effects approach. All statistical tests were two-sided.
Results
We found statistically significant associations between esophageal squamous cell carcinoma and antibodies to E6 for HPV16 (OR = 1.89, 95% CI = 1.09 to 3.29, P = .023) and HPV6 (OR = 2.53, 95% CI = 1.51 to 4.25, P < .001) but not for other tested HPV types. There were no statistically significant associations between esophageal squamous cell carcinoma and antibodies to E7 for any of the tested HPV types. Simultaneous seropositivity for HPV16 E6 and E7 was rare (four case subjects, two control subjects; OR = 5.57, 95% CI = 0.90 to 34.35; P = .064). We also found statistically significant associations between esophageal squamous cell carcinoma and capsid antibodies for the high-risk mucosal type HPV33 L1 (OR = 1.30, 95% CI = 1.00 to 1.69; P = .047) and the low-risk mucosal types HPV6 (OR = 1.22, 95% CI = 1.05 to 1.42; P = .010) and HPV11 (OR = 1.30, 95% CI = 1.09 to 1.56, P = .0036).
Conclusions
We found limited serological evidence of an association between esophageal squamous cell carcinoma and HPV in the populations studied. Although HPV does not appear to be an important risk factor for esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, we cannot exclude the possibility that certain HPV types may be involved in a small subset of cancers.
doi:10.1093/jnci/djr499
PMCID: PMC3260131  PMID: 22228147
14.  Significant variation in the concentration of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in yerba maté samples by brand, batch and processing method 
Environmental science & technology  2012;46(24):13488-13493.
Drinking maté, common in southern South America, may increase the risk of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC). In 2006, we found high but variable polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) content in commercial yerba maté samples from eight Brazilian brands. The PAH content of new samples from the same brands, purchased in 2008, and four brands from a single manufacturer processed in different ways, obtained in 2010, were quantified to determine whether PAH concentration was still high, PAH content variation was brand specific, and whether processing method affects PAH content of commercial yerba maté. Concentrations of individual PAHs were quantified using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry with deuterated PAHs as internal standards. Median total PAH concentration was 1500 ng/g (range: 625 to 3710 ng/g) and 1090 ng/g (621 to 1990 ng/g) in 2008 and 2010 samples, respectively. Comparing 2006 and 2008 samples, some brands had high PAH concentrations in both years, while PAH concentration changed considerably in others. Benzo[a]pyrene concentrations ranged from 11.9 to 99.3 ng/g and 5.11 to 21.0 ng/g in 2008 and 2010 samples, respectively. The 2010 sample processed without touching smoke had the lowest benzo[a]pyrene content. These results support previous findings of very high total and carcinogenic PAH concentrations in yerba maté, perhaps contributing to the high incidence of ESCC in southern South America. The large PAH content variation by brand, batch and processing method suggests it may be possible to reduce the content of carcinogenic PAHs in commercial yerba maté, making it a healthier beverage.
doi:10.1021/es303494s
PMCID: PMC3525749  PMID: 23101992
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons; Yerba Maté; Carcinogens; Esophageal Cancer; Benzo(α)pyrene; Processing Method; Lifestyle
15.  Serum ghrelin is inversely associated with risk of subsequent oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma 
Gut  2011;61(11):1533-1537.
Background
Oesophageal cancers rank as the eighth most common cancer and the sixth most common cause of cancer death, worldwide. Gastric atrophy, as determined by a low serum pepsinogen I/II ratio, may be associated with an increased risk of oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). Ghrelin, a hormone which, like pepsinogen, is produced in the fundic glands of the stomach, may be a sensitive and specific marker of gastric atrophy, but its association with OSCC is not known.
Methods
To examine the relationship between baseline serum ghrelin concentration and subsequent risk of OSCC, we conducted a nested case-control study within the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention (ATBC) Study. 82 cases of OSCC were matched (1:1) by age and date of blood draw to controls from the ATBC study. Serum ghrelin was measured by radioimmunoassay. Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) were calculated using conditional logistic regression with adjustment for potential confounders.
Results
For those individuals in the lowest quartile of serum ghrelin, compared to those in the highest, the multivariate odds ratio of subsequent OSCC was 6.83 (95% CI: 1.46, 31.84). These associations were dose dependent (P for trend = 0.005 for both), and independent of the effects of low pepsinogen I/II ratio (a marker of gastric fundic atrophy) and Helicobacter pylori infection. The significance of these associations remained even for individuals developing OSCC up to 10 years after baseline ghrelin measurement, though they become attenuated after 10 years.
Conclusion
Lower baseline concentrations of serum ghrelin were associated with an increase in risk of OSCC. Further studies are needed to confirm this finding in other populations and to explore the role of ghrelin in the aetiology of OSCC.
doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2011-300653
PMCID: PMC3462270  PMID: 22180062
ghrelin; oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma; atrophy
16.  The Relationship Between Serum Ghrelin and the Risk of Gastric and Esophagogastric Junctional Adenocarcinomas 
Background
Cancers of the upper gastrointestinal tract remain a substantial cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Ghrelin is a hormone produced in the oxyntic glands of the stomach, and under conditions of chronic inflammation and atrophy, serum ghrelin concentrations decrease. However, the relationship between ghrelin and the risk of gastric and esophagogastric junctional cancers has not been investigated.
Methods
We conducted a nested case–control study within the Finnish Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study to examine the relationship between serum ghrelin concentration and the risk of gastric noncardia adenocarcinoma (GNCA) and esophagogastric junctional adenocarcinoma (EGJA). Data from 261 GNCA patients, 98 EGJA patients, and 441 control subjects were analyzed. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were calculated using logistic regression with adjustment for potential confounders. Lag analysis was also performed to investigate the temporal nature of the associations between baseline serum pepsinogen I and ghrelin in GNCA and EGJA patients. All statistical tests were two-sided.
Results
Lower concentrations of serum ghrelin were statistically significantly associated with an increased risk of both GNCA (adjusted OR = 1.75, 95% CI = 1.49 to 2.04; P < .001) and EGJA (adjusted OR = 1.56, 95% CI = 1.28 to 1.89, P < .001). A multivariable model found that the risk of both GNCA and EGJA were statistically significantly increased for those individuals in the lowest quartile of serum ghrelin levels compared with those in the highest quartile (OR of GNCA = 5.63, 95% CI = 3.16 to 10.03; OR of EGJA = 4.90, 95% CI = 2.11 to 11.35). The statistical significance of these associations remained even after restricting the analysis to those patients who developed cancer more than 10 years after baseline serum ghrelin measurements.
Conclusion
Low baseline concentrations of serum ghrelin were associated with a statistically significant increase in the risk of GNCA and EGJA, suggesting a potential role for gastric hormones in carcinogenesis.
doi:10.1093/jnci/djr194
PMCID: PMC3139586  PMID: 21693726
17.  Is Opium a Real Risk Factor for Esophageal Cancer or Just a Methodological Artifact? Hospital and Neighborhood Controls in Case-Control Studies 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e32711.
Background
Control selection is a major challenge in epidemiologic case-control studies. The aim of our study was to evaluate using hospital versus neighborhood control groups in studying risk factors of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC).
Methodology/Principal Findings
We compared the results of two different case-control studies of ESCC conducted in the same region by a single research group. Case definition and enrollment were the same in the two studies, but control selection differed. In the first study, we selected two age- and sex-matched controls from inpatient subjects in hospitals, while for the second we selected two age- and sex-matched controls from each subject's neighborhood of residence. We used the test of heterogeneity to compare the results of the two studies. We found no significant differences in exposure data for tobacco-related variables such as cigarette smoking, chewing Nass (a tobacco product) and hookah (water pipe) usage, but the frequency of opium usage was significantly different between hospital and neighborhood controls. Consequently, the inference drawn for the association between ESCC and tobacco use did not differ between the studies, but it did for opium use. In the study using neighborhood controls, opium use was associated with a significantly increased risk of ESCC (adjusted OR 1.77, 95% CI 1.17–2.68), while in the study using hospital controls, this was not the case (OR 1.09, 95% CI 0.63–1.87). Comparing the prevalence of opium consumption in the two control groups and a cohort enrolled from the same geographic area suggested that the neighborhood controls were more representative of the study base population for this exposure.
Conclusions/Significance
Hospital and neighborhood controls did not lead us to the same conclusion for a major hypothesized risk factor for ESCC in this population. Our results show that control group selection is critical in drawing appropriate conclusions in observational studies.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032711
PMCID: PMC3291619  PMID: 22396792
18.  Tea drinking habits and oesophageal cancer in a high risk area in northern Iran: population based case-control study 
Objective To investigate the association between tea drinking habits in Golestan province, northern Iran, and risk of oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma.
Design Population based case-control study. In addition, patterns of tea drinking and temperature at which tea was drunk were measured among healthy participants in a cohort study.
Setting Golestan province, northern Iran, an area with a high incidence of oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma.
Participants 300 histologically proved cases of oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma and 571 matched neighbourhood controls in the case-control study and 48 582 participants in the cohort study.
Main outcome measure Odds ratio of oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma associated with drinking hot tea.
Results Nearly all (98%) of the cohort participants drank black tea regularly, with a mean volume consumed of over one litre a day. 39.0% of participants drank their tea at temperatures less than 60°C, 38.9% at 60-64°C, and 22.0% at 65°C or higher. A moderate agreement was found between reported tea drinking temperature and actual temperature measurements (weighted κ 0.49). The results of the case-control study showed that compared with drinking lukewarm or warm tea, drinking hot tea (odds ratio 2.07, 95% confidence interval 1.28 to 3.35) or very hot tea (8.16, 3.93 to 16.9) was associated with an increased risk of oesophageal cancer. Likewise, compared with drinking tea four or more minutes after being poured, drinking tea 2-3 minutes after pouring (2.49, 1.62 to 3.83) or less than two minutes after pouring (5.41, 2.63 to 11.1) was associated with a significantly increased risk. A strong agreement was found between responses to the questions on temperature at which tea was drunk and interval from tea being poured to being drunk (weighted κ 0.68).
Conclusion Drinking hot tea, a habit common in Golestan province, was strongly associated with a higher risk of oesophageal cancer.
doi:10.1136/bmj.b929
PMCID: PMC3269898  PMID: 19325180
19.  Extremely High Tp53 Mutation Load in Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Golestan Province, Iran 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e29488.
Background
Golestan Province in northeastern Iran has one of the highest incidences of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) in the world with rates over 50 per 100,000 person-years in both sexes. We have analyzed TP53 mutation patterns in tumors from this high-risk geographic area in search of clues to the mutagenic processes involved in causing ESCC.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Biopsies of 119 confirmed ESCC tumor tissue from subjects enrolled in a case-control study conducted in Golestan Province were analyzed by direct sequencing of TP53 exons 2 through 11. Immunohistochemical staining for p53 was carried out using two monoclonal antibodies, DO7 and 1801. A total of 120 TP53 mutations were detected in 107/119 cases (89.9%), including 11 patients with double or triple mutations. The mutation pattern was heterogeneous with infrequent mutations at common TP53 “hotspots” but frequent transversions potentially attributable to environmental carcinogens forming bulky DNA adducts, including 40% at bases known as site of mutagenesis by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Mutations showed different patterns according to the reported temperature of tea consumption, but no variation was observed in relation to ethnicity, tobacco or opium use, and alcoholic beverage consumption or urban versus rural residence.
Conclusion/Significance
ESCC tumors in people from Golestan Province show the highest rate of TP53 mutations ever reported in any cancer anywhere. The heterogeneous mutation pattern is highly suggestive of a causative role for multiple environmental carcinogens, including PAHs. The temperature and composition of tea may also influence mutagenesis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029488
PMCID: PMC3246475  PMID: 22216294
20.  Accuracy and Cut-Off Values of Pepsinogens I, II and Gastrin 17 for Diagnosis of Gastric Fundic Atrophy: Influence of Gastritis 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26957.
Background
To establish optimal cutoff values for serologic diagnosis of fundic atrophy in a high-risk area for oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma and gastric cancer with high prevalence of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) in Northern Iran, we performed an endoscopy-room-based validation study.
Methods
We measured serum pepsinogens I (PGI) and II (PGII), gastrin 17 (G-17), and antibodies against whole H. pylori, or cytotoxin-associated gene A (CagA) antigen among 309 consecutive patients in two major endoscopy clinics in northeastern Iran. Updated Sydney System was used as histology gold standard. Areas under curves (AUCs), optimal cutoff and predictive values were calculated for serum biomarkers against the histology.
Results
309 persons were recruited (mean age: 63.5 years old, 59.5% female). 84.5% were H. pylori positive and 77.5% were CagA positive. 21 fundic atrophy and 101 nonatrophic pangastritis were diagnosed. The best cutoff values in fundic atrophy assessment were calculated at PGI<56 µg/l (sensitivity: 61.9%, specificity: 94.8%) and PGI/PGII ratio<5 (sensitivity: 75.0%, specificity: 91.0%). A serum G-17<2.6 pmol/l or G-17>40 pmol/l was 81% sensitive and 73.3% specific for diagnosing fundic atrophy. At cutoff concentration of 11.8 µg/l, PGII showed 84.2% sensitivity and 45.4% specificity to distinguish nonatrophic pangastritis. Exclusion of nonatrophic pangastritis enhanced diagnostic ability of PGI/PGII ratio (from AUC = 0.66 to 0.90) but did not affect AUC of PGI. After restricting study samples to those with PGII<11.8, the sensitivity of using PGI<56 to define fundic atrophy increased to 83.3% (95%CI 51.6–97.9) and its specificity decreased to 88.8% (95%CI 80.8–94.3).
Conclusions
Among endoscopy clinic patients, PGII is a sensitive marker for extension of nonatrophic gastritis toward the corpus. PGI is a stable biomarker in assessment of fundic atrophy and has similar accuracy to PGI/PGII ratio among populations with prevalent nonatrophic pangastritis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026957
PMCID: PMC3204997  PMID: 22066020
21.  Diabetes Mellitus and Its Correlates in an Iranian Adult Population 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26725.
The rising epidemic of diabetes imposes a substantial economic burden on the Middle East. Using baseline data from a population based cohort study, we aimed to identify the correlates of diabetes mellitus (DM) in a mainly rural population from Iran. Between 2004 and 2007, 50044 adults between 30 and 87 years old from Golestan Province located in Northeast Iran were enrolled in the Golestan Cohort Study. Demographic and health-related information was collected using questionnaires. Individuals' body sizes at ages 15 and 30 were assessed by validated pictograms ranging from 1 (very lean) to 7 in men and 9 in women. DM diagnosis was based on the self-report of a physician's diagnosis. The accuracy of self-reported DM was evaluated in a subcohort of 3811 individuals using fasting plasma glucose level and medical records. Poisson regression with robust variance estimator was used to estimate prevalence ratios (PR's). The prevalence of self-reported DM standardized to the national and world population was 5.7% and 6.2%, respectively. Self-reported DM had 61.5% sensitivity and 97.6% specificity. Socioeconomic status was inversely associated with DM prevalence. Green tea and opium consumption increased the prevalence of DM. Obesity at all ages and extreme leanness in childhood increased diabetes prevalence. Being obese throughout life doubled DM prevalence in women (PR: 2.1; 95% CI: 1.8, 2.4). These findings emphasize the importance of improving DM awareness, improving general living conditions, and early lifestyle modifications in diabetes prevention.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026725
PMCID: PMC3203882  PMID: 22053206
22.  Serum pepsinogens and Helicobacter pylori in relation to the risk of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma in the ATBC Study 
Background
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) can induce gastric atrophy in humans, which in turn increases gastric cancer risk. Whether H. pylori and gastric atrophy also affect the risk of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC), however, remains unresolved.
Methods
We performed a nested case-control study within the prospective ATBC Study to assess these relationships. The ATBC Study is composed of 29,133 Finnish male smokers, aged 50–69, who were recruited during 1985–1988. Using baseline sera, we assessed H. pylori status (via IgG antibodies against whole-cell and CagA antigens) and gastric atrophy status (via the biomarkers pepsinogen I (PGI) and II (PGII)) in 79 ESCC cases and 94 controls. Logistic regression with adjustment for age, date of blood draw, education, cigarette smoking, alcohol, body mass index, and fruit and vegetable intake was used to estimate odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (95%CI).
Results
Gastric atrophy (PGI:PGII <4) was associated with ESCC (OR=4.58, 95%CI:2.00–10.48). There was no evidence for an association between H. pylori and ESCC (OR=0.94, 95%CI:0.40–2.24).
Conclusions
These results could be explained by misclassification of H. pylori status due to serologic amnesia, ESCC risk being dependent upon the functional consequences or interactions of H. pylori, rather than the infection per se, gastric atrophy having a different histogenesis in ESCC without being primarily dependent upon H. pylori acquisition, or a lack of statistical power to detect an effect.
Impact
Validation of these results may warrant mechanistic studies to determine the route of association between gastric atrophy and ESCC.
doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-10-0270
PMCID: PMC2919643  PMID: 20647397
Atrophy; Esophageal Neoplasms; Helicobacter pylori; Nested Case-Control Studies; Pepsinogens; Prospective Studies
23.  No role for human papillomavirus in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma in China 
Certain regions of China have high rates of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC). Previous studies of human papillomavirus (HPV), a proposed causal factor, have produced highly variable results. We attempted to evaluate HPV and ESCC more definitively using extreme care to prevent DNA contamination. We collected tissue and serum in China from 272 histopathologically-confirmed ESCC cases with rigorous attention to good molecular biology technique. We tested for HPV DNA in fresh-frozen tumor tissue using PCR with PGMY L1 consensus primers and HPV16 and 18 type-specific E6 and E7 primers, and in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tumor tissue using SPF10 L1 primers. In HPV-positive cases, we evaluated p16INK4a overexpression and HPV E6/E7 seropositivity as evidence of carcinogenic HPV activity. β-globin, and thus DNA, was adequate in 98.2% of the frozen tumor tissues (267/272). Of these, 99.6% (95% confidence interval (CI) = 97.9–100.0%) were negative for HPV DNA by PGMY, and 100% (95% CI = 98.6–100%) were negative by HPV16/18 E6/E7 PCR. In the corresponding formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tumor specimens, 99.3% (95% CI = 97.3–99.9%) were HPV negative by SPF10. By PGMY, 1 case tested weakly positive for HPV89, a noncancer causing HPV type. By SPF10, 2 cases tested weakly positive: 1 for HPV16 and 1 for HPV31. No HPV DNA-positive case had evidence of HPV oncogene activity as measured by p16INK4a overexpression or E6/E7 seropositivity. This study provides the most definitive evidence to date that HPV is not involved in ESCC carcinogenesis in China. HPV DNA contamination cannot be ruled out as an explanation for high HPV prevalence in ESCC tissue studies with less stringent tissue procurement and processing protocols.
doi:10.1002/ijc.25023
PMCID: PMC3069961  PMID: 19918949
human papillomavirus; esophageal squamous cell carcinoma
24.  The Gastric Cardia is not a Target for Human Papillomavirus-induced Carcinogenesis 
Background
Thousands of people in central Asia die every year from gastric cardia adenocarcinoma (GCA). GCA arises in the transformation zone between the esophagus and the stomach, similar to cervical and oropharyngeal carcinoma, which arise in areas with transformation zone characteristics. The analogous biology of the gastric cardia to the cervix and oropharynx, where human papillomavirus (HPV) is known to cause cancer, raises the possibility that GCA could be an HPV-associated cancer. Given the availability of an effective HPV vaccine and its potential to prevent HPV-associated cancer, we decided to evaluate the prevalence of HPV DNA in GCA.
Methods
We collected tumor tissue from 144 histopathologically-confirmed GCA patients at Yaocun Commune Hospital, Linxian, China, with rigorous attention to prevent DNA contamination. We tested for the presence of HPV DNA in fresh-frozen tumor specimens using PCR with sensitive L1, E6, and E7-based primers.
Results
DNA was adequate, as indicated by β-globin positivity, in 108 cases. Of these, all (100%, 95% confidence interval: 97%–100%) were negative for HPV DNA
Conclusions
These results suggest that HPV does not contribute to gastric cardia carcinogenesis in north central China.
Impact
Since GCA does not appear to be an HPV-associated cancer, prophylactic HPV vaccination is unlikely to affect rates of GCA in China.
doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-10-0089
PMCID: PMC2852466  PMID: 20332262

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