BACKGROUND: Esophageal cancer is a deadly cancer with 5-year survival <20%. Although multiple risk factors for esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) including obesity, GERD and smoking have been identified, these risk factors do not fully explain the rising incidence of EAC. In this study, we evaluated the association between prior history of tonsillectomy and EAC. Our goal was to determine whether tonsillectomies were more frequent in patients with EAC (cases) than in our thoracic surgery controls. METHODS: Cases included 452 esophagectomy cases, including 396 with EAC and 56 who underwent esophagectomy for Barrett's esophagus (BE) with high grade dysplasia (HGD). 1,102 thoracic surgery patients with surgical indications other than dysplastic BE or esophageal cancer represented the controls for our analysis. The association of tonsillectomy and HGD/EAC were primarily evaluated by using univariate tests and then verified by logistic regression analysis. Baseline demographics, medical history, and thoracic surgery controls were compared by using χ2 tests or 95% CIs. Significant risk factors were considered as covariates in the multivariate models while evaluating the association between tonsillectomy and HGD/EAC. P-values or odds ratios were estimated with 95% confidence limits to identify significances which was more appropriate. RESULTS: Tonsillectomy was more common in cases than controls and was found to have a significant association with esophageal cancer (19.9% vs. 12.7%; p-value = 0.0003). This significant association persisted after controlling for other known risk factors/covariates. CONCLUSION: A prior history of tonsillectomy was significantly associated with HGD/EAC and may represent an independent risk factor for the development of EAC. However, the underlying biology driving this association remains unclear.
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