In preparation for a collaborative multidisciplinary study of the pathogenesis of esophageal cancer, the authors reviewed the published literature to identify similarities and differences between Japan and China in esophageal cancer epidemiology. Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) is the predominant histologic type, while the incidence of esophageal adenocarcinoma remains extremely low in both countries. Numerous epidemiologic studies in both countries show that alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking are contributing risk factors for ESCC. There are differences, however, in many aspects of esophageal cancer between Japan and China, including cancer burden, patterns of incidence and mortality, sex ratio of mortality, risk factor profiles, and genetic variants. Overall incidence and mortality rates are higher in China than in Japan, and variation in mortality and incidence patterns is greater in China than in Japan. During the study period (1987–2000), the decline in age-adjusted mortality rates was more apparent in China than in Japan. Risk factor profiles differed between high- and low-incidence areas within China, but not in Japan. The association of smoking and drinking with ESCC risk appears to be weaker in China than in Japan. Genome-wide association studies in China showed that variants in several chromosome regions conferred increased risk, but only genetic variants in alcohol-metabolizing genes were significantly associated with ESCC risk in Japan. A well-designed multidisciplinary epidemiologic study is needed to examine the role of diet and eating habits in ESCC risk.
2013 Japan Epidemiological Association. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.