Background and aims. Cancer is a leading cause of death in Ecuador with high social and economic impact. This study aims to determinate the influence of living at a high altitude on the risk of developing or dying from cancer among the Ecuadorian population.

Methods. This is an ecological and epidemiological analysis of cancer mortality and prevalence rates, based on national data from the Ecuadorian National Statistics and Census Institute, corresponding to the period between 2005 and 2014. This study includes the analysis of various types of cancer: gastric, colorectal, hepatic/bile duct, breast, uterine/cervix, and lymphatic/hematopoietic, using rates of mortality and prevalence. Additionally, the association between the risk of getting or dying from cancer and living at high altitude was investigated. This comparison was made between the population living in Highlands, over 2000 meters above sea level, and low-lying regions.

Results. Living at high altitude was associated with a higher prevalence of cancer and also with a high mortality rate due to cancer. Risk of getting cancer was related to living at a higher altitude, as well as an increased risk of death by cancer: gastric (OR:1.204; p<0.001), colorectal (OR:1.421; p<0.001), hepatic/bile duct (OR:1.184; p<0.001), breast (OR:1.067; p=0.030), or lymphatic/hematopoietic neoplasms (OR:1.135; p<0.001).

Conclusions. Through an epidemiologic analysis, the association between developing or dying from cancer and living at high altitude was obtained. However, further researche is needed to clarify these findings, something that could have a substantial impact on cancer prevention.


cancer, altitude, mortality, prevalence, Ecuador