What are the risk factors for esophageal cancer?
The following factors can put an individual at greater risk for developing esophageal cancer:
- age The risk increases with age, with persons over the age of 60 being at greatest risk for developing esophageal cancer.
- gender Men have a three times greater risk of developing esophageal cancer than women.
- tobacco use Using any form of tobacco raises the risk of esophageal cancer. The longer tobacco is used, the greater the risk, with the greatest risk among persons who have indulged in long-term drinking with tobacco use. Scientists believe that these substances increase each other's harmful effects, making persons who do both especially susceptible to developing the disease.
- alcohol use Chronic and/or long-term heavy drinking is another major risk factor for esophageal cancer.
- Barrett's esophagus Long-term irritation from reflux, commonly known as heartburn, changes the cells at the end of the esophagus. This is a pre-cancerous condition, which raises the risk of developing adenocarcinoma of the esophagus.
- diet Diets low in fruits and vegetables and certain vitamins and minerals can increase risk for this disease.
- other irritants Swallowing caustic irritants such as lye and other substances can burn and destroy cells in the esophagus. The scarring and damage done to the esophagus can put a person at greater risk for developing cancer many years after ingesting the substance.
- medical history Certain diseases, such as achalasia, a disease in which the bottom of the esophagus does not open to release food into the stomach, and tylosis, a rare, inherited disease, increase the risk of esophageal cancer. In addition, anyone who has had other head and neck cancers has an increased chance of developing a second cancer in this area, which includes esophageal cancer.