Esophageal Cancer

Risk Factors

  • Age – 85% of cases are found in people 55+
  • Gender – Men have more than a 3-fold higher rate of esophageal cancer.
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) – In some people, acid can escape from the stomach into the esophagus, putting those with it at a higher risk.
  • Barrett’s Esophagus – If reflux of stomach acid into the lower esophagus continues, it can damage the lining of the esophagus, increasing the risk.
  • Tobacco & Alcohol – The use of tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, & chewing tobacco, is a major risk factor. Combining smoking & drinking alcohol raises the risk much more than using either alone.
  • Achalasia – In this condition, the muscle at the lower end of the esophagus (the lower esophageal sphincter) does not relax properly.
  • Tylosis – Inherited disease that causes excess growth of the top layer of skin on the palms of the hands & soles of the feet.
  • Esophageal Webs
  • Workplace Exposures – Exposure to chemical fumes.
  • History of Cancer – People who have had certain other cancers, such as lung, mouth, & throat cancer.
  • Obesity

Warning Signs & Symptoms

  • Trouble swallowing
  • Chest pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Hoarseness
  • Chronic cough
  • Hiccups
  • Pneumonia
  • Bone pain
  • Bleeding into the esophagus. This blood then passes through the digestive tract, which may turn stolls black. Over time, this blood loss can lead to anemia (low red blood cell levels), which may make a person feel tired.


Having one or more of the symptoms above does not mean you have esophageal cancer. In fact, many of these symptoms are more likely to be caused by other conditions. Still, if you have any of these symptoms, especially trouble swallowing, it is very important to have them checked by a doctor so that the cause can be found and treated, if needed.

Early Detection Saves Lives!

This information was provided by the American Cancer Society. © 2013 American Cancer Society, Inc. All rights reserved. The American Cancer Society is a qualified 501[c][3] tax-exempt organization.