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UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center

Risk factors for esophageal cancer include:

  • Age: People between the ages of 45 and 70 are at greatest risk. Most people who develop esophageal cancer are over age 60.
  • Gender: Men are nearly three times more likely than women to develop esophageal cancer.
  • Race: People of African American decent are twice as likely as Caucasians to develop esophageal cancer.
  • Tobacco use: Using any form of tobacco, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco and snuff, raises the risk of esophageal cancer.
  • Alcohol use: Heavy drinking over the long term increases the risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus, especially when combined with tobacco use.
  • Barrett’s esophagus: This condition can develop in some people who have chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus), even when a person does not experience symptoms of chronic heartburn. Damage to the lining of the esophagus causes abnormal changes in cells. This is a premalignant condition that is most likely to develop into adenocarcinoma of the esophagus.
  • Diet: A diet that is low in fruits and vegetables and certain vitamins and minerals can increase a person’s risk of developing esophageal cancer.
  • Obesity: Being severely overweight and having an excess of body fat can increase a person’s risk of developing esophageal adenocarcinoma.
  • Lye ingestion: Lye ingestion by children is associated with an increase in squamous cell carcinoma. Lye can be found in some cleansing products, such as drain cleaners.
  • Achalasia: Achalasia is a condition when the lower muscular ring of the esophagus fails to relax during swallowing of food and increases the risk of squamous cell carcinoma.
  • 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.
Last updated: 5/26/2010 3:10:32 PM