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What're the risk factors for esophageal cancer?

Esophageal cancer can result after many years of irritation to the esophagus. Use of alcohol or tobacco are major risk factors that increase a person's risk of developing esophageal cancer. The use of both alcohol and tobacco significantly

increase risk. Risk factors for esophageal cancer include:
  • Age. Esophageal cancer is more likely to occur as people get older; most people who develop esophageal cancer are over age 60.
  • Sex. Cancer of the esophagus is more common in men than in women.
  • Tobacco Use. Smoking cigarettes or using smokeless tobacco is one of the major risk factors for esophageal cancer.
  • Alcohol Use. Chronic and/or heavy use of alcohol is another major risk factor for esophageal cancer. People who use both alcohol and tobacco have an especially high risk of esophageal cancer. Scientists believe that these substances increase each other's harmful effects.
  • Barrett's Esophagus. Long-term irritation can increase the risk of esophageal cancer. Tissues at the bottom of the esophagus can become irritated if stomach acid frequently "backs up" into the esophagus -- a problem called gastric reflux. Over time, cells in the irritated part of the esophagus may change and begin to resemble the cells that line the stomach. This condition, known as Barrett's esophagus, is a premalignant condition that may develop into adenocarcinoma of the esophagus.
  • Other Types of Irritation. Other causes of significant irritation or damage to the lining of the esophagus, such as swallowing lye or other caustic substances, can increase the risk of developing esophageal cancer.
  • Medical History. Patients who have had other head and neck cancers have an increased chance of developing a second cancer in the head and neck area, including esophageal cancer.
  • Having any of these risk factors increases the likelihood that a person will develop esophageal cancer. Still, most people with one or even several of these factors do not get the disease. Most people who do get esophageal cancer have none of the known risk factors. Identifying factors that increase a person's chances of developing esophageal cancer is the first step toward preventing the disease. We already know that the best ways to prevent this type of cancer are to quit (or never start) smoking cigarettes or using smokeless tobacco and to drink alcohol only in moderation. Researchers continue to study the causes of esophageal cancer and to search for other ways to prevent it. For example, they are exploring the possibility that increasing one's intake of fruits and vegetables, especially raw ones, may reduce the risk of this disease.

    More information on esophageal cancer

    What is esophageal cancer? - Esophageal cancer is a malignancy that develops in tissues lining the hollow, muscular canal. Cancer of the esophagus is also called esophageal cancer.
    What causes esophageal cancer? - Esophageal cancer can result after many years of irritation to the esophagus. The use of both alcohol and tobacco significantly increase risk.
    What're the risk factors for esophageal cancer? - People who smoke cigarettes, chew tobacco, and drink alcohol are at a higher risk for this cancer. Risk factors for esophageal cancer include age, sex, alcohol use.
    What're symptoms of cancer of the esophagus? - Early-stage esophageal cancer may have no symptoms. Dysphagia is the most common symptom. Spread to bones may cause pain.
    How is esophageal cancer diagnosed? - A barium swallow is usually the first test performed on a patient whose symptoms suggest esophageal cancer.
    What're the stages of esophageal cancer? - Staging esophageal cancer is a careful attempt to find out whether the cancer has spread. Knowing the stage of the disease helps the doctor plan treatment.
    What's the treatment for esophageal cancer? - Treatment for esophageal cancer depends on a number of factors, including the size, location, and extent of the tumor, and the general health of the patient.
    How to prevent esophageal cancer? - The best way to prevent esophageal cancer is to avoid tobacco and alcohol. Eating more fruits and vegetables.
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    All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005, health-cares.net, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005