Reducing Your Risk of Esophageal Cancer
A risk factor increases your chances of developing cancer. Modifying the following risk factors may help reduce your risk of esophageal cancer.
Drink Alcohol in Moderation
The single most important way to reduce your risk of esophageal cancer is to reduce alcohol intake to no more than two drinks a day. Alcohol intake increases your risk by 10-25 times, depending upon the strength of the drink. Combined with smoking, the risks are multiplied.
Moderate smoking, by itself, does not greatly increase the risk of this particular disease, but it does promote many other diseases including several other cancers. Heavy smoking, particularly of “black tobacco” (term of interest primarily to pipe smokers), at least doubles your risk.
For more information on quitting smoking, click here .
Avoid Combining Alcohol and Smoking
The combined effect of heavy alcohol consumption and black-tobacco smoke has been shown to multiply the risk of esophageal cancer by 100 fold. Moderate alcohol intake combined with moderate tobacco use (of any kind) increase the risk by 10-20 fold, whereas either moderate indulgence by itself does not affect risk statistics. Therefore, drink alcohol only in moderation and quit smoking.
Avoid Ingesting Irritants
Some esophageal irritants have been identified. Avoid intake of these substances to help decrease your risk:
- Very hot beverages
- Toxins in pickled vegetables
Avoid Environmental Irritants
The two main environmental irritants are radiation and smoked opiates.
There is not much you can do about the radiation you have received already from cancer treatment or industrial exposure, but the more you have already been exposed to, the greater should be your caution in the future. Radiation damage is cumulative over your lifetime. Don’t smoke opium; if you do, quit.
Be Treated for Medical Conditions
Acid reflux disease —Don’t neglect frequent heartburn . This condition is not benign over the long run and can be treated effectively with several different medications. You can take over-the-counter antacids, such as Tums or Alka-Seltzer. If over-the-counter antacids don’t help, see your doctor. Regardless, it is advisable to alert your doctor about your condition.
—If you have
Nutritional deficiencies —These deficiencies are quite rare in developed countries. If your doctor suspects you may have one, he or she can test to find out. If so, you may be advised to take a vitamin or mineral supplement to resolve the problem.
Esophageal cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.nci.nih.gov/cancerinfo/wyntk/esophagus . Accessed December 2, 2002.
Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 14th ed. McGraw-Hill; 1998.
Neoplasms of the esophagus. American Cancer Society website. Available at http://www.cancer.org/docroot/home/index.asp . Accessed November 30, 2002.
Last reviewed November 2008 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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