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Approved research

The association between occupational physical activity and the risk of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD), Barrett's oesophagus and oesophageal adenocarcinoma - a cohort study in Biobank.

Principal Investigator: Mr Stephen Lam
Approved Research ID: 46864
Approval date: April 18th 2019

Lay summary

Over the last 40 year in the UK there has been a worrying increase in the number of cases of cancer of the food pipe (oesophagus). Despite the best treatments that we have, this disease has a very poor survival rate. Only 16 out of 100 patients are still alive 5 years after diagnosis. To date, we do not know why this cancer is on the rise, but it is likely due to changes in our lifestyles over time. There has been large changes in working trends over the last century, with a decrease in jobs that would give us a lot of exercise (labourers, coal miners, and agricultural workers) and an increase jobs that involve prolonged sitting (transport drivers and administrators). We believe that this change in the amount of exercise that we do as part of our jobs may be contributing to the increase in cases of oesophageal cancer in the UK over the last four decades. The amount of exercise we do in our jobs can have an impact on how the oesophagus and stomach work. For example, sitting for long periods of the day at a computer, particularly if we are overweight and have a slumped posture, may cause acid reflux. Alternatively, a standing occupation with frequent walking can aid digestion and reduce the risk of acid reflux. Having acid reflux for many years can cause damage to the cells in the oesophagus and these damaged cells, over time, can become cancerous. The aim of this research project is to find out whether the amount of exercise we do in our jobs is part of the cause of the increase in cases of cancer of the oesophagus in the UK. If we do find evidence that some jobs may increase the risk of disease then this will be an important public health message for people already experiencing reflux as they may need to make adjustments to the way they work. It may also help us decide who should be screened for cancer with a camera test to look into the oesophagus.