Who Is at Risk for Esophageal Cancer?
10. 03. 2016
Esophageal cancer only accounts for about one percent of cancers diagnosed within the United States, but don’t let that number fool you. This form of cancer is considered to be one of the deadliest malignancies. It is expected that nearly 17,000 individuals will be diagnosed with esophageal cancer in this year alone, and close to 16,000 of them will die from this disease.
Doctors are not yet clear on the exact cause of esophageal cancer, but they have identified several factors that affect your disease risk. These include:
- Age – More than 85 percent of esophageal cancer cases occur in individuals over the age of 55.
- Gender – Esophageal cancer is three to four times more common in men than in women.
- Having a reflux disorder, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) – Individuals with GERD are more likely to develop esophageal adenocarcinoma. However, most people with GERD do not ever develop esophageal cancer.
- Having Barrett’s esophagus – Barrett’s esophagus is a complication of GERD that causes healthy cells in the lining of the esophagus to change and resemble cells within the lining of the intestine. These abnormal cell changes increase the risk of developing esophageal cancer, although the overall risk is still relatively low.
- Tobacco use – Smoking is known to increase the risk of adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, the two common types of esophageal cancer.
- Alcohol intake – Increased alcohol consumption raises the risk of developing esophageal cancer, particularly squamous cell carcinoma.
- Being overweight – Individuals who are overweight or obese have a greater risk of developing adenocarcinoma. This may be due in part to the fact that excess weight contributes to acid reflux.
- Not eating enough fruits and vegetables – A diet rich in fruits and vegetables has been associated with a reduced risk of esophageal cancer (Source: American Cancer Society).
Esophageal cancer is deadly, but the prognosis improves drastically with early detection and treatment. If you have concerns about the risk factors of esophageal cancer or if you are currently experiencing problematic symptoms, schedule a consult with your doctor today. There are simple screening options that can detect any abnormalities in the esophagus and determine whether treatment is necessary.