Learn About Esophageal Cancer


HOW PREVENTABLE IS ESOPHAGEAL CANCER?

Few Americans realize that making simple, everyday changes to what we eat and how much we move could prevent an estimated one third of esophageal cancer cases in the US (33 percent).

In other words, if Americans ate smart, moved more and stayed lean, over 5,600 cases of esophageal cancer every year would never happen.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

WHAT ARE ESOPHAGEAL CANCER'S MAJOR RISK FACTORS?

Weight: If you are obese, your risk for esophageal cancer is higher compared to those at a healthy weight. Alcohol: Generally, risk for esophageal cancer increases as alcohol consumption increases.
Smoking: Both current and former smokers increase their risk of contracting esophageal cancer. Age: The older you are, the greater your risk.

HOW COMMON IS ESOPHAGEAL CANCER?

Nearly 17,000 new cases of esophageal cancer occur annually. The vast majority of these cases occur in men.

Esophageal cancer will claim almost 16,000 lives this year alone.

FOCUS ON THE RISK FACTORS YOU CONTROL

To lower your risk for esophageal cancer, make everyday choices that will help you stay at or get to your healthy weight.

Find your healthy weight using the AICR Body Mass Index (BMI) Calculator.

Moving more and eating well help you achieve your healthy weight.

Avoiding alcohol and tobacco also lower your risk.

MOVE MORE

Aim to get your body up and moving for at least 30 minutes every day. Try anything that:

  • Makes your heart beat faster
  • Makes you breathe more deeply
  • You already enjoy doing

EAT WELL

  • AICR's Foods That Fight CancerTM

    AICR’s new web resource keeps you up-to-date about the latest research on foods that belong at the center of your New American Plate.

Get More:
  • Vegetables
    Choose non-starchy ones like tomatoes, leafy greens, peppers and carrots.
  • Fruit - Go for whole fruits more often, whether fresh or frozen. Limit even 100% fruit juices to 1 cup per day.
  • Whole Grains - Whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa and oatmeal are just a few great choices.
  • Beans - Add pinto, kidney, black, garbanzos and more to soups, salads and stews.
Get Less:
  • Sugary drinks
    Regular sodas, lemonade and sweet tea add calories without filling you up.
  • Red meat like beef, pork and lamb
    Too much red meat raises risk for colorectal cancer.
  • Processed meat
    Processed meats, like hot dogs, cold cuts, bacon and sausage, are often high in calories and increase risk for colorectal and stomach cancers.
  • Fast food Lots of calories and sodium packed into each bite.
A good rule of thumb:
Always fill at least 2/3 of your plate with plant foods, and let animal foods (meat and dairy) take up the rest.

IF YOU CHOOSE TO DRINK, LIMIT ALCOHOL

  • If you do decide to drink, keep to no more than 1 standard drink (12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of liquor) per day for women, and 2 drinks per day for men. Enjoy unsweetened tea, coffee, club soda or sparkling apple juice instead.

AVOID TOBACCO IN ANY FORM

What the Research Shows

FOOD, NUTRITION, PHYSICAL ACTIVITY, AND CANCER OF THE ESOPHAGUS

STRENGTH OF CURRENT EVIDENCE DECREASES RISK INCREASES RISK
CONVINCING Effect on Risk:  

Body fatness*

Alcoholic drinks**

PROBABLE Effect on Risk:   Mate**
Source: Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Oesophageal Cancer,
2016 *adenocarcinoma **squamous cell carcinoma

What’s the Link?

  • Excess Body Fat Raises Esophageal Cancer Risk
    • Overweight and obesity are associated with gastro-esophageal reflux and Barrett’s esophagus, conditions which damage the cells lining the esophagus in ways that make them prone to cancer.
    • Being overweight and obese also increases blood levels of insulin and related hormones that can encourage the growth of cancer.
  • Alcohol Raises Esophageal Cancer Risk
    • The body coverts alcohol into acetylaldehyde, a potent carcinogen.
    • Alcohol may act as a solvent, making it easier for carcinogens such as tobacco smoke to penetrate the cells lining the esophagus.
    • Alcohol can adversely affect how efficiently the body repairs DNA damage and defends against free radicals.
    • Statistically, heavy drinkers tend to have poor diets, which increases their cancer risk.
  • Mate Raises Esophageal Cancer Risk
    • As drunk traditionally in parts of South America, scalding hot through a metal straw.

For related AICR supported studies visit our research section.

Looking Forward

LOOK FORWARD WITH HOPE

Today, your chances for overcoming esophageal cancer and returning to an active and full live are the best they've ever been.

But throughout your treatment, and after its over, you will face many everyday questions. AICR can help.

AICR’s CancerResource: A Program for Those Living with Cancer is a free kit of information specifically for the newly diagnosed cancer patient.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE

Esophageal cancer survivors are living longer, healthier lives than ever before.

See below for selections from AICR's CancerResource. Or read the complete CancerResource flipping book online.

BEFORE TREATMENT

DURING TREATMENT

AFTER TREATMENT

More AICR Materials for Esophageal Cancer Survivors

In-depth brochures on cancer survivorship; read online or order a free copy.

Join the fight against cancer

Join the Fight Against Esophageal Cancer

Nearly 17,500 new cases of esophageal cancer occur annually but few Americans realize that making simple, everyday changes to what we eat and how much we move could prevent approximately 7 out of every 10 cases of esophageal cancer. Your support for AICR's cancer research, survivorship, and education programs will help us get one step closer to preventing esophageal cancer and saving lives.

Your gift will help fund emerging research on esophageal cancer and other cancers and improve the quality of health for esophageal cancer patients and survivors.

Honor Someone Facing Esophageal Cancer

Make a gift in memory of a loved one. Your gift will help fund research and survivorship programs for those with esophageal cancer and other cancers for years to come.

Give in Memory of a Loved One

Make a gift in memory of a loved one. Your gift will help fund research and survivorship programs for those with esophageal cancer and other cancers for years to come.