Divorce, widowhood, living alone, low educational attainment, and low income increase the risk of each subtype of esophageal and gastric cancer, a new study published online ahead of print in the journal Cancer has shown.1

Because there are limited data on how marital status, income, and education influence the risk of esophageal and gastric cancer, researchers at the Karolinska Institutet and Stockholm University in Stockholm, Sweden, sought to conduct a large study evaluating how these factors impact the risk of different subtypes of these tumors.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from 4,734,227 participants 50 years or older that were included in a nationwide, Swedish population-based cohort study conducted between 1991 and 2010. Of those, 24,095 developed esophageal or gastric cancer.

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Researchers particularly assessed the impact of socioeconomic factors on esophageal adenocarcinoma, esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, cardia adenocarcinoma, and noncardia gastric adenocarcinoma, both separately and in combination.

Results showed that individuals who were in a shorter marriage or were never married, remarried, divorced, or widowed had an increased risk for each subtype of esophageal or gastric cancer compared with those in a long marriage, but the association was stronger for esophageal squamous cell carcinoma. Lower education and income were also associated with an increased risk of each subtype.

“These associations require attention when high-risk individuals are being identified,” the authors concluded.


  1. Lagergen J, Andersson G, Talbäck M, et al. Marital status, education, and income in relation to the risk of esophageal and gastric cancer by histological type and site [published online ahead of print October 8, 2015]. Cancer. doi: 10.1002/cncr.29731.