Several environmental risk factors are associated with esophageal cancer, which many researchers believe may result from chronic irritation of the esophagus. Over time, persistent inflammation can cause the cells that line the esophagus to undergo cancerous changes and form tumors, which can potentially invade the underlying connective tissue (submucosa) and muscle layer.
The precise mechanisms behind these changes are not yet well understood. However, there are several steps you can take to help prevent esophageal cancer, including avoiding exposure to certain substances that are present in some workplaces and other environments.
How to lower your risk of developing esophageal cancer
In addition to not smoking, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy body weight and consuming a nutritious diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables, it is also important to avoid exposure to certain environmental factors that are believed to contribute to the risk of esophageal cancer, such as:
- Tobacco smoke
- Certain mineral spirits, paints and varnishes
- Toluene, a hydrocarbon present in coal and petroleum
- Synthetic adhesives, such as formaldehyde resins, epoxy resins, polyvinyl acetate resins and hot melts
- Sulphuric acid, a substance used in the manufacture of certain fertilizers, soaps and rayon; as an electrolyte in batteries; and in the purification of petroleum products
- Perchlorethylene, a common dry-cleaning solvent
- Carbon black and other polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are contained in chimney soot, printing ink and certain rubber products
While all of these substances have been linked to esophageal cancer, it’s important to understand that a direct causal effect has not been established; in other words, exposure does not cause cancer in every case. Likewise, some people develop esophageal cancer even though they have no known risk factors.
If you’d like to discuss your esophageal cancer risk factors with an oncologist in the Gastrointestinal Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center, you can request an appointment with or without a referral. Call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online.