A risk factor is something that increases your chances of developing cancer. Some risk factors cannot be changed, such as family history or genetics. Fortunately, many risk factors can be modified.
Tobacco use is the biggest risk factor associated with esophageal cancer. People who smoke and drink carry an even higher risk than doing one or the other alone. All forms of smoking, including opioid drugs, introduces a variety of harmful chemicals into your body. The sooner smoking is stopped, the sooner your body can start to heal.
Excess alcohol intake is also associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer. Adding smoking to excess alcohol intake multiplies the risk of esophageal cancer. If you drink, aim for moderation. Moderation is a maximum of one drink per day for women and a maximum of two drinks per day for men.
Talk to your doctor if you are having trouble controlling how much you drink.
There is evidence to support eating a healthful diet to reduce your risk of esophageal and many other types of cancer. In general, aim for a diet high in fruits and vegetables, and dietary fiber, and fewer servings of dairy, processed foods, and red meat. Good nutrition supports your body's immune system and can help maintain a healthy weight.
Avoid drinking hot beverages right away. Allow them to cool down for a short period of time.
Regular physical activity has many benefits. It reduces the risk of many cancers and helps with overall well-being. Aim for at least 30 minutes of regular exercise on most days of the week. The higher the amount of physical activity the greater the reduction in risk.
Chemical exposure can occur in many different jobs. If possible, try to find work in a different environment. If it is unavoidable, take steps to protect yourself from inhaling harmful chemicals. Check with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health or the Environmental Protection Agency about any available protective guidelines.
Irritation caused by external substances can also increase the risk of cancer. The irritants may be inhaled or intentionally delivered.
Previous radiation exposure can cause problems, but is not always avoidable. Radiation accumulates in the body over the course of a lifetime. Talk to your doctor or dentist about the risks and benefits of any radiation exposure.
Avoid inhalation of harsh, burning chemicals like lye or drain cleaner. Keep chemicals in clearly marked containers and locked away, especially if you have children.
If you have any health conditions that put you at a high risk of esophageal cancer, be sure to follow your treatment plan. High risk conditions may include:
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Esophageal cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/tumors-of-the-gi-tract/esophageal-cancer. Updated July 2014. Accessed January 3, 2017.
Esophagus cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003098-pdf.pdf. Accessed January 3, 2017.
6/17/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114816/Esophageal-and-esophagogastric-junction-cancer: Liu X, Wang X, Lin S, Yuan J, Yu IT. Dietary patterns and oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Cancer. 2014;110(11):2785-2795.
1/22/2015 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114816/Esophageal-and-esophagogastric-junction-cancer: Chen Y, Yu C, Li Y. Physical activity and risks of esophageal and gastric cancers: a meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2014;9(2):e88082.
Last reviewed December 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.