Background:

Gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT) is positively associated with several cancer types. The objective of this study was to investigate the association between GGT and head and neck cancer (HNC) incidence in a cohort of 10 million people, considering effects of smoking and alcohol consumption.

Methods:

All data used in this study were obtained from the Korean National Health Insurance Service database. We analyzed subjects who underwent health check-ups in 2009 and monitored them until 2018 (n = 9,597,952). Using proportional hazards models, quartiles of GGT as independent predictors for HNC incidence were evaluated.

Results:

The overall incidence of HNC increased in the highest quartile [r-GPT ≥ 40 U/L; HR, 1.452; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.354–1.557]. Among HNC cases, the HR for hypopharyngeal cancer (HR, 2.364; 95% CI, 1.818–3.074) was significantly higher. HRs for HNC (larynx, sino-nasal, oropharynx, oral cavity, and nasopharynx, except salivary glands) were also significant.

Conclusions:

Elevated GGT was associated with the risk of some types of HNCs, such as hypopharyngeal, laryngeal, sinonasal, oropharyngeal, oral cavity, and nasopharyngeal cancer.

Impact:

Results of this study have implications for etiologic investigations and preventive strategies.

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