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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Esophageal cancer risk factors

Knowing the risk factors for esophageal cancer may help you reduce your chance of developing the disease.

Some of the most common risk factors for esophageal cancer include age, gender, smoking, drinking alcohol and obesity. Other common risk factors are gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a chronic digestive condition, and Barrett’s esophagus, which is an abnormal tissue condition in the lower part of the esophagus that often develops from GERD. Because people with GERD and Barrett’s esophagus have a much higher risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma, they are often closely monitored for esophageal cancer by undergoing biopsies and routine endoscopies. 

cancer risks

Esophageal cancer risk factors


  • Obesity


  • Excessive tobacco use
  • Excessive alcohol use


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): Chronic acid reflux, which increases esophageal cancer risk depending on the frequency and severity of the condition
  • Barrett’s esophagus: A condition caused by chronic acid reflux that changes the cells lining the esophagus


  • Achalasia: A condition that occurs when the esophagus is unable to move food into the stomach correctly
  • Tylosis: An extremely rare disorder that causes excess skin to grow on the soles of the feet and palms
  • Esophageal webs: A condition characterized by tissue flaps that develop on the esophagus, making it difficult to swallow
Last Revised: 10/09/2015

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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