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Esophageal Cancer Causes and Risk Factors

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Updated April 26, 2006

Esophageal Cancer Causes and Risk Factors

Esophagus, Photo Courtesy of NCI

A Few Words About the Causes of Esophageal Cancer:

Although we don't know exactly what causes esophageal cancer, researchers have identified several known risk factors for the disease. A risk factor is something that increases the chances of developing a disease.

Smoking :

Smoking is a significant risk factor for esophageal cancer. When smoke is inhaled, damage is causes to the esophagus cells' DNA. According to the American Cancer Society, smoking a pack a day doubles your risk factor for esophageal cancer.

Consuming Excessive Amounts of Alcohol Long Term:

Long term alcohol abuse is also a major risk factor of esophageal cancer, yet not quite as strong as smoking. A good portion of drinkers are smokers, so the combination is double the trouble.

Being Obese or Overweight:

Obese men with esophageal cancer are 50% more likely to die from the disease. Being overwight or obese are major risk factors for many diseases, esophageal cancer included.

Drinking Lye:

Lye is found in household drain cleaners and is a corrosive agent. Each year many children accidentally ingest these cleaners. People who ingest the chemical find that 40 or so years later they have developed esophageal cancer and it is linked to lye ingestion.

GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease):

Having GERD is a risk factor for esophageal cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, 30% of esophageal cancer cases are linked to GERD.

Barrett's Esophagus:

Barrett's esophagus is a condition that causes acid reflux in the lower esophagus. People with this condition are 50 times more likely to develop esophageal cancer.

Age ,Race, Gender:

More than half of people who develop esophageal cancer are over 70. Men develop the disease three times more often than their female counterparts. African Americans are 50% more likely to develop esophageal cancer than Caucasians.

Certain Diseases Put You at Risk for Esophageal Cancer:

Conditions such as achalasia and tylosis heighten the risk factor for esophageal cancer. Tylosis is a rare, genetic disease. Achalasia causes a defect in allowing food to pass through the esophagus to the stomach, thus retaining food in the lower esophagus.



Created 04/18/06
Source: American Cancer Society: Cancer of the Esophagus: Detailed Guide
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