• Reducing Your Risk of Esophageal Cancer

    A risk factor increases your chances of developing cancer. Modifying the following risk factors may help reduce your risk of esophageal cancer.

    Drink Alcohol in Moderation

    The single most important way to reduce your risk of esophageal cancer is to reduce alcohol intake to no more than two drinks a day. Alcohol intake increases your risk by 10-25 times, depending upon the strength of the drink. Combined with smoking, the risks are multiplied.

    Don’t Smoke

    Moderate smoking, by itself, does not greatly increase the risk of this particular disease, but it does promote many other diseases including several other cancers. Heavy smoking, particularly of “black tobacco” (term of interest primarily to pipe smokers), at least doubles your risk.
    For more information on quitting smoking, click here .

    Avoid Combining Alcohol and Smoking

    The combined effect of heavy alcohol consumption and black-tobacco smoke has been shown to multiply the risk of esophageal cancer by 100 fold. Moderate alcohol intake combined with moderate tobacco use (of any kind) increase the risk by 10-20 fold, whereas either moderate indulgence by itself does not affect risk statistics. Therefore, drink alcohol only in moderation and quit smoking.

    Avoid Ingesting Irritants

    Some esophageal irritants have been identified. Avoid intake of these substances to help decrease your risk:
    • Very hot beverages
    • Toxins in pickled vegetables

    Avoid Environmental Irritants

    The two main environmental irritants are radiation and smoked opiates.
    There is not much you can do about the radiation you have received already from cancer treatment or industrial exposure, but the more you have already been exposed to, the greater should be your caution in the future. Radiation damage is cumulative over your lifetime. Don’t smoke opium; if you do, quit.

    Get Proper Care for Other Conditions

    Make sure that you get treatment for any conditions that you have, such as:
    • Acid reflux disease—Don’t neglect frequent heartburn . This condition can be treated effectively. Make sure that you talk to your doctor.
    • Achalasia—If you have achalasia (a disorder of the smooth muscles in the esophagus), talk with your doctor about how best to treat it.
    • Nutritional deficiencies—These deficiencies are quite rare in developed countries. If your doctor suspects you may have one, she can test to find out. If so, you may be advised to take a vitamin or mineral supplement to resolve the problem.

    Talk to Your Doctor About the Benefits of Aspirin

    Some studies have found a link between aspirin use and reduced rates of esophageal cancer. Since taking aspirin can have side effects, including gastrointestinal bleeding, talk to your doctor before deciding to start aspirin therapy.


    Esophageal cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.nci.nih.gov/cancerinfo/wyntk/esophagus . Accessed December 2, 2002.

    Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 14th ed. McGraw-Hill; 1998.

    Neoplasms of the esophagus. American Cancer Society website. Available at http://www.cancer.org/docroot/home/index.asp . Accessed November 30, 2002.

    4/5/2012 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Algra AM, Rothwell PM. Effects of regular aspirin on long-term cancer incidence and metastasis: a systematic comparison of evidence from observational studies versus randomised trials. Lancet Oncol. 2012 Mar 20.

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