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Esophageal cancer in north rift valley of western Kenya

Johnston Wakhisi
Kritika Patel
Nathan Buziba
Joseph Rotich


Background: Cancer of esophagus is the 9th It is aggressive with poor prognosis especially in its late stage. Cancer of esophagus is geographically unevenly distributed with high incidence found within sharply demarcated geographic confines. Earlier reports from this country indicated relatively high proportion of cases in residents of Western and Central provinces with low incidence in the residents of the Rift Valley Province. This does not seem to be in agreement with our findings. Several aetiological factors have been associated with this type of cancer although their definitive mechanistic role is not clear.

Objective: The main aim of this study was to describe the incidence, clinical epidemiology and histology of esophageal cancer in the North Rift region of Western Kenya, which forms the patients catchment area of Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, Eldoret.

Methods: This study involved a review of all available pathology reports beginning from January 1994 up to May 2001 from Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital. All reports of esophageal cancer were abstracted and analyzed according to gender, age and ethnical background. All cases were based on histological diagnosis. Statistical analysis was performed using the SPSS software package.

Results: Esophageal cancer in this area is the most common cancer in men, yet it is the third common cancer in women. A male to female ratio of 1.5 to 1 was observed. Our finding also contrast with an earlier reported study that indicated that Rift Valley is a low prevalence area for this type of cancer. The mean age of the patients with this cancer was 58.7 years. The ethnic group most afflicted were Nandis and Luhyas. They are the majority tribes in this area. Squamous cell carcinoma accounted for 90% of the cases.

Conclusions: Cancer of the esophagus is the most common malignancy in males and the third common malignancy in females in the catchment area of Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, Eldoret. There is need to carry out further work to establish the aetiologic factors behind this neoplasm. This study forms a preliminary basis of further investigation to be undertaken to identify genes that are mutated during the carcinogenic development of this cancer. This may lead to identification of molecular biomarkers to be used in future for the early detection of this neoplasm.

African Health Sciences Vol.5(2) 2005: 157-163