Risk Factors for Esophageal Cancer
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
It is possible to develop esophageal cancer with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing esophageal cancer. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your healthcare provider what you can do to reduce your risk.
Risk factors for esophageal cancer include the following:
Moderate smoking, by itself, does not greatly increase the risk of esophageal cancer, but it does promote many other diseases including several other cancers.
Alcohol and Smoking Combined
The combined effect of heavy alcohol consumption and black-tobacco smoke has been shown to multiply the risk of esophageal cancer by a 100 fold. Moderate alcohol intake combined with moderate tobacco use (of any kind) increase the risk 10-20 fold, whereas moderate use of either of these substances by itself does not affect risk statistics.
Ingestion of Irritants
Eating or drinking substances that can be directly damaging to the esophagus can increase the risk of esophageal cancer. Such irritants include the following:
- Nitrosamines, which naturally occur in foods in many areas of the world where rates of esophageal cancer are high, such as Northern China
- Drain cleaners or lye (the liquid obtained by leaching wood ashes), which may predate the development of cancer by as much as 40 years
- Very hot beverages
- Toxins in pickled vegetables
Exposure to other esophageal irritants can also increase your risk. These include radiation and smoked
Certain medical conditions can increase your risk of esophageal cancer.
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.
*¹1/13/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Wysowski DK. Reports of esophageal cancer with oral bisphosphonate use. N Engl J Med. 2009;360:89-90.
Last reviewed November 2008 by
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