Oesophageal cancer in Zulu men, South Africa: A case-control study


The high rate of oesophageal cancer amongst southern African blacks has also been recorded amongst the Zulus. Data embracing a wide spectrum of factors pertaining to socio-economic status, nutrition, exposure to carcinogens, tobacco and alcohol usage and traditional health practices were obtained from 211 hospitalized oesophageal cancer patients and compared with hospital population controls matched for age and urban-rural background. Stepwise logistic regression analysis with adjustment for age effects showed that four of the many factors could adequately model the odds of being a cancer case. They were the daily consumption of purchased maize meal (relative risk (RR) 5.7) currently smoking commercial cigarettes (RR 2.6), pipe smoking (RR 2.1), and a reduction of risk in those using butter or margarine daily (RR 0.51). Further significant differences (P less than 0.05) in 12 other factors suggest that those with rural assets but an ability to earn a modest income external to the subsistence economy are at highest risk. They represent a transitional state of Westernisation which is characterised by excessive smoking habits and a diet having a low vitamin and mineral density. These results provide further evidence for the need to combat smoking and for a program of nutrient enrichment of maize meal.


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Van Rensburg, S., Bradshaw, E., Bradshaw, D. et al. Oesophageal cancer in Zulu men, South Africa: A case-control study. Br J Cancer 51, 399–405 (1985). https://doi.org/10.1038/bjc.1985.54

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