Clinical Research Papers:

Cause of death in patients diagnosed with esophageal cancer in Sweden: a population-based study

Shao-Hua Xie _, Karl Wahlin and Jesper Lagergren

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:51800-51809. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.15270

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Shao-Hua Xie1, Karl Wahlin1 and Jesper Lagergren1,2

1 Upper Gastrointestinal Surgery, Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery, Karolinska Institutet, Karolinska University Hospital, Sweden

2 Division of Cancer Studies, King’s College London, United Kingdom

Correspondence to:

Shao-Hua Xie, email:

Keywords: esophageal cancer; prognosis; mortality; cause of death; Sweden

Received: December 21, 2016 Accepted: January 27, 2017 Published: February 11, 2017


Background: Esophageal cancer carries a poor prognosis with an overall 5-year survival of less than 20%. However, the causes of death in patients with esophageal cancer have not been well described.

Methods: This nationwide, population-based cohort study included 18 229 esophageal cancer patients who were diagnosed between 1961 and 2014 in Sweden. We assessed the distribution of main causes of death in patients with esophageal cancer and used competing-risks regression to compare the cause-specific risks of death across sexes, ages at diagnosis, and calendar periods of diagnosis.

Results: A total of 16 938 (92.9%) patients died during follow-up. Esophageal cancer accounted for 79.5% of all reported deaths. Other major causes of death were non-esophageal cancers (9.8%), ischemic heart disease or cerebrovascular disease (4.2%) and respiratory diseases (1.3%). Female patients had a lower risk of death from esophageal cancer (sub-hazard ratio [SHR]=0.90, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.87, 0.94), which was more pronounced in patients with squamous cell carcinoma (SHR=0.85, 95% CI: 0.81, 0.89). Risks of death from esophageal cancer and other cancers in patients who were diagnosed in more recent calendar periods were lower than in those diagnosed in earlier periods.

Conclusions: Patients diagnosed with esophageal cancer are more likely to die from this cancer than from other causes. However, these patients also face considerable risk of death from other cancers, ischemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and respiratory diseases. These common causes of death should be taken into consideration in esophageal cancer management.

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