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Esophageal Cancer (cont.)

Types of Esophageal Cancer

There are two main types of esophageal cancer. Both types are diagnosed, treated, and managed in similar ways.

The two most common types are named for how the cancer cells look under a microscope. Both types begin in cells in the inner lining of the esophagus:

  • Adenocarcinoma of the esophagus: This type is usually found in the lower part of the esophagus, near the stomach. In the United States, adenocarcinoma is the most common type of esophageal cancer. It's been increasing since the 1970s.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus: This type is usually found in the upper part of the esophagus. This type is becoming less common among Americans. Around the world, however, squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type.

Risk Factors

When you get a diagnosis of cancer, it's natural to wonder what may have caused the disease. Doctors can seldom explain why one person develops esophageal cancer and another doesn't. However, we do know that people with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop esophageal cancer. A risk factor is something that may increase the chance of getting a disease.

Studies have found the following risk factors for esophageal cancer:

  • Age 65 or older: Age is the main risk factor for esophageal cancer. The chance of getting this disease goes up as you get older. In the United States, most people are 65 years of age or older when they are diagnosed with esophageal cancer.
  • Being male: In the United States, men are more than three times as likely as women to develop esophageal cancer.
  • Smoking: People who smoke are more likely than people who don't smoke to develop esophageal cancer.
  • Heavy drinking: People who have more than 3 alcoholic drinks each day are more likely than people who don't drink to develop squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus. Heavy drinkers who smoke are at a much higher risk than heavy drinkers who don't smoke. In other words, these two factors act together to increase the risk even more.
  • Diet: Studies suggest that having a diet that's low in fruits and vegetables may increase the risk of esophageal cancer. However, results from diet studies don't always agree, and more research is needed to better understand how diet affects the risk of developing esophageal cancer.
  • Obesity: Being obese increases the risk of adenocarcinoma of the esophagus.
  • Acid reflux: Acid reflux is the abnormal backward flow of stomach acid into the esophagus. Reflux is very common. A symptom of reflux is heartburn, but some people don't have symptoms. The stomach acid can damage the tissue of the esophagus. After many years of reflux, this tissue damage may lead to adenocarcinoma of the esophagus in some people.
  • Barrett's's esophagus: Acid reflux may damage the esophagus and over time cause a condition known as Barrett's esophagus. The cells in the lower part of the esophagus are abnormal. Most people who have Barrett's esophagus don't know it. The presence of Barrett's esophagus increases the risk of adenocarcinoma of the esophagus. It's a greater risk factor than acid reflux alone. Many other possible risk factors (such as smokeless tobacco) have been studied. Researchers continue to study these possible risk factors.

Having a risk factor doesn't mean that a person will develop cancer of the esophagus. Most people who have risk factors never develop esophageal cancer.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/14/2014

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Esophageal Cancer - Symptoms and Signs Question: What were the symptoms and signs you experienced with esophageal cancer?
Esophageal Cancer - Prognosis Question: What is your esophageal cancer prognosis?
Esophageal Cancer - Types Question: Do you or someone you know have adenocarcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus? Please share your story.
Esophageal Cancer - Risk Factors Question: Do you have any of the risk factors for esophageal cancer? What are they, and what are your concerns?
Esophageal Cancer - Diagnosis Question: What kinds of tests and exams led to a diagnosis of esophageal cancer?
Esophageal Cancer - Treatment Question: What kinds of treatment, including radiation or chemotherapy, did you receive for esophageal cancer?
Esophageal Cancer - Surgery Question: Please describe the surgical experience you or someone you know had for esophageal cancer.
Esophageal Cancer - Second Opinion Question: How did you go about getting a second opinion for your esophageal cancer?
Esophageal Cancer - Follow-Up Care Question: What type of follow-up care did you receive for your esophageal cancer?
Source: MedicineNet.com
http://www.medicinenet.com/esophageal_cancer/article.htm

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