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Am I At Risk for Esophageal Cancer?  

Two glasses of beer
Frequent use of alcohol is a known risk factor for esophageal cancer.

There is no way to know for sure if you're going to get esophageal cancer. And there is no known way to prevent it. Certain factors can make you more likely to get this type of cancer than another person. These are called risk factors. Here are the known risk factors for esophageal cancer. Tell your health care provider if you feel you may be at risk.

I smoke and drink alcohol

Smoking and drinking alcohol are both risk factors for developing esophageal cancer. Together, they form the highest risk of getting esophageal cancer. Smoking and drinking are risk factors for other cancers too, such as cancers of the head, neck, and upper airways.

I am over age 65

The risk for esophageal cancer goes up as you get older. Most cases are in people older than 65, but younger people can still develop esophageal cancer.

I am a man

Men are three times more likely to get esophageal cancer than women.

I have an irritated esophagus

If your esophagus is irritated for a long time, cancer is more likely to occur. Irritation happens when fluid from your stomach comes up into your lower esophagus. This problem is called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). About 30 percent of esophageal cancer cases are related to GERD. Over time, the reflux may cause the cells in the esophagus to change. This condition is called Barrett's esophagus. In some cases, Barrett's esophagus leads to esophageal cancer. People with this condition are much more likely to develop esophageal cancer than someone without the condition.

I weigh much more than I should

People who are obese are at higher risk of the adenocarcinoma type of esophageal cancer. If you are a man who develops this type of cancer and you are obese, your risk of dying from the cancer is also higher compared with men who aren't overweight.

I eat very few fruits or vegetables

Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and minerals that help prevent cancer, including cancer of the esophagus. If you eat few fruits or vegetables, you may have a deficiency of these vitamins and minerals. This puts you at greater risk of developing esophageal cancer.

I often drink very hot liquids

Drinking very hot liquids frequently can increase your risk for some kinds of esophageal cancer.

More rare risk factors

These more rare factors may also lead to esophageal cancer:

  • I have achalasia. This rare disease affects the muscles of the esophagus. When the opening between the esophagus and the stomach is too tight, food does not pass easily into the stomach.

  • I have tylosis. This disease is inherited and changes the cells that line your palms, soles, and esophagus.

  • I have helicobacter pylori infection. This bacterial infection is associated with gastritis and peptic ulcer disease.

  • I have Plummer-Vinson syndrome. This syndrome is characterized by anemia, brittle fingernails, and esophageal irritation.

  • I have had other occurrences of head or neck cancer.


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