Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Esophageal cancer risk factors

The American Cancer Society estimated that more than 16,000 people would be diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2011.The risk of developing esophageal cancer increases with age. Men are three to four times more likely to develop esophageal cancer than women.

Knowing the risk factors for esophageal cancer may help you take preventative measures to reduce the likelihood of developing the disease.

cancer risks

Esophageal cancer risk factors


  • Obesity: People who are overweight have a higher likelihood of developing adenocarcinoma.


  • Tobacco Use: The use of cigarettes, pipes and cigars all increase the likelihood of developing esophageal cancer.
  • Alcohol Use: Excessive use of alcohol can increase the risk of developing esophageal cancer.


Certain disorders are considered risk factors for esophageal cancer. People with the following conditions have a higher risk of developing esophageal cancer:

  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): When acid leaks from the stomach into the esophagus, it causes acid reflux. Chronic acid reflux is called GERD, and increases esophageal cancer risk depending on the frequency and severity of the acid reflux. Read about GERD and Barrett’s esophagus and how to reduce the risk of esophageal cancer.
  • Barrett’s Esophagus: A condition caused by chronic acid reflux that changes the cells lining the esophagus increases the risk of adenocarcinoma.
  • Achalasia: When the esophagus is unable to move food into the stomach correctly, the risk of esophageal cancer increases.
  • Tylosis: An extremely rare disorder that causes excess skin to grow on the soles of the feet and palms is associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer.
  • Esophageal Webs: Tissue flaps that develop on the esophagus, making it difficult to swallow, can increase the risk of developing esophageal cancer.

Understanding risk factors

Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer. Not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. If you think you may be at risk, you should discuss it with your doctor.

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