Understanding Esophageal Cancer
Anyone can develop esophageal cancer, but there are some factors that can increase your risk for it. Lehigh Valley Health Network offers the following guidelines to help you understand your risk factors and lower your chances of developing the disease.
Risk factors out of your control
Unfortunately, certain risk factors can make it more likely for a person to have esophageal cancer. These include:
- Older age. Your risk for esophageal cancer goes up as you get older.
- Being male. Men are three to four times more likely to develop this cancer than women.
- Having a history of certain other cancers. People who have had cancers of the head, neck or lungs have a higher risk for esophageal cancer.
- Exposure to certain chemicals in the workplace. People exposed to certain chemicals at work – such as solvents used by dry cleaners – might have a higher risk.
Risk factors related to reflux
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) describes a condition where stomach acid and stomach contents reflux from the stomach into the esophagus. Though rare, constant exposure to stomach acid can cause cancerous changes in the esophagus.
Another reflux-related disorder is Barrett’s esophagus. With this condition, stomach acid damages the inner lining of the esophagus. This can lead to changes in those cells which can lead to adenocarcinoma of the esophagus.
Take steps to prevent esophageal cancer
“While there are some risk factors you cannot influence, there are still things you can do that might lower your risk,” says hematologist oncologist Maged Khalil, MD, with LVPG Hematology Oncology. For example:
- Do not use any form of tobacco. If you do, try to quit. Ask your health care provider for help.
- Limit how much alcohol you drink.
- Eat a well-balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
- Reach and stay at a healthy weight.
Should you get a screening?
Screening for esophageal cancer in the general population is not recommended at this time. “But if you have symptoms or risk factors linked to esophageal cancer, talk with your health care provider about screening,” Khalil says.
Learn more about cancer care near you by visiting LVHN.org/CancerInstitute.