Researchers have connected esophageal cancer to certain risk factors, many of which involve chronic irritation of the esophagus. However, even the most strongly-associated risk factors aren’t always directly responsible for the development of esophageal cancer. Several of these factors may apply to someone, but they might never be diagnosed with cancer. On the other hand, some people may develop esophageal cancer without ever being affected by these factors.
Many risk factors aren’t lifestyle factors, but rather pre-existing conditions that can cause cancerous developments over time. These include:
- Barrett’s esophagus
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Plummer-Vinson syndrome
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Sudden traumatic injury to the esophagus
Exposures to certain carcinogens, such as chemical fumes and dry cleaning solvents, can also irritate the esophagus and increase a person’s risk of developing cancer. Tobacco products, including cigars, cigarettes, pipes and chewing tobacco, can also introduce carcinogens directly into the body. The more tobacco products a person uses (and the longer they use them), the higher their risk is for developing cancer. Additionally, alcohol use can increase a person’s esophageal cancer risk (especially for the adenocarcinoma form), and has a cumulative affect with tobacco use. Smoking and drinking alcohol can raise a person’s esophageal cancer risk much more than just one of these alone.
Poor nutrition and obesity can also increase a person’s risk of developing esophageal cancer. People who maintain a healthy weight and eat a variety of fruits and vegetables have a lower cancer risk than people who are considered medically obese. However, diet and weight are not thought to be stand-alone causes of esophageal cancer.
If you’d like to discuss your esophageal cancer risk factors with one of the experienced oncologists at Moffitt Cancer Center, contact us to make an appointment. No referral is required; request a new patient appointment online or call 1-888-MOFFITT.