EPIC Working Groups - Cancer Working Groups

The Upper Gastro-Intestinal (GI) Tract Cancer Working Group

Cancers of the upper aero-digestive tract (UADT), which comprise cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx and oesophagus, account for 8% of all incident cancers worldwide [1]. Over 1 million individuals are diagnosed with UADT cancer annually and more than 700 000 die from the disease each year. The main aims of the EPIC UADT Cancer Working Group are to determine and quantify the role of known and suspected risk factors of UADT cancers, to identify novel risk factors, and to elucidate potential biological mechanisms involved in disease processes.

The Working Group's research efforts particularly concentrate on tobacco smoking [2], alcohol consumption [3,4], dietary factors [5–7], obesity [8] and, most recently, infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) [9], which is increasingly recognized as a risk factor, particularly for cancers arising in the oropharynx. The EPIC study is involved in coordinating a large consortium (comprising partners from six European countries and one from India) to comprehensively assess the role of HPV infections in head and neck (oral cavity, pharynx, larynx) cancers; assembling and analysing a large collection of serum and cancer tissues (http://hpv-ahead.iarc.fr/). Further research is needed to evaluate and compare risk factors for the single cancer sites subsumed under UADT.


Selected publications:

  1. Ferlay J et al. GLOBOCAN 2012 v1.0, Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide: IARC CancerBase No. 11. [Internet]. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; Available from: http://globocan.iarc.fr, accessed on 21/03/2014. 2012.

  2. Agudo A et al. Impact of cigarette smoking on cancer risk in the European prospective investigation into cancer and nutrition study. J Clin Oncol, 2012 Dec 20;30(36):4550-7. PMID: 23169508

  3. Weikert C et al. Lifetime and baseline alcohol intake and risk of cancer of the Upper Aero-Digestive Tract in the European Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study. Int J Cancer, 2009 Jul 15;125(2):406-12. PMID: 19378340

  4. Schutze M et al. Alcohol attributable burden of incidence of cancer in eight European countries based on results from prospective cohort study. BMJ, 2011 Apr 7;342:d1584. PMID: 21474525

  5. Steffen A et al. Meat and heme iron intake and risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the upper aero-digestive tract in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev, 2012 Dec;21(12):2138-48. PMID: 23033453

  6. Boeing H et al. Intake of fruits and vegetables and risk of cancer of the upper aero-digestive tract: the prospective EPIC-study. Cancer Causes Control, 2006 Sep;17(7):957-69. PMID: 16841263

  7. Vermeulen E et al. Dietary flavonoid intake and esophageal cancer risk in the European prospective investigation into cancer and nutrition cohort. Am J Epidemiol, 2013 Aug 15;178(4):570-81. PMID: 23652166

  8. Steffen A et al. Anthropometry and esophageal cancer risk in the European prospective investigation into cancer and nutrition. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev, 2009 Jul;18(7):2079-89. PMID: 19567501

  9. Kreimer AR et al. Evaluation of human papillomavirus antibodies and risk of subsequent head and neck cancer. J Clin Oncol, 2013 Jul 20;31(21):2708-15. PMID: 23775966


Contact details/Working Group leaders

Professor Dr Heiner Boeing
Department of Epidemiology
German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke (DIfE)
Arthur-Scheunert-Allee 114-116
14558 Nuthetal, Germany


Dr Annika Steffen
Department of Epidemiology
German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke (DIfE)
Arthur-Scheunert-Allee 114-116
14558 Nuthetal, Germany