Dr. Starpoli's Blog

Five Factors Implicated in the Rise in Esophageal Cancer

Posted by Anthony A. Starpoli, MD on Jul 1, 2014 8:00:00 AM


One type of cancer appears to be on the rise dramatically: Esophageal cancer. Despite a drop in smoking and other risk factors, the disease continues to rise in both men and women, by as much as 50 percent in the last 40 years in some countries (like the United Kingdom). While not all the factors for the increase have been determined, there are some known risk factors that will increase your chances of getting cancer of the esophagus in your lifetime. 

Factors Associated with Esophageal Cancer

Know how to address these risk factors with diet, exercise, and the elimination of toxic substances and you can reduce your chances of being a statistic. Here are a few such factors:

  1. Acid Reflux - It may seem benign, but persistent heartburn caused by acid reflux can end up increasing your chances of developing esophageal cancer. If you suffer from gastrointestinal distress, reducing the symptoms of acid reflux are not just useful for maintaining comfort, but can improve your health standing. Celiac disease and IBS sufferers are also at high risk of developing the disease and need to take special care with their diets.  
  2. Barrett’s Esophagus - If the acid reflux is not addressed, a person can then develop Barrett’s esophagus. This is a condition whereby the esophageal tube becomes damaged due to acid reflux and is a prime indicator of future cancer. While men experience Barrett’s esophagus twice as much as women, some people don’t even experience heartburn and may still have the condition.
  3. Obesity - It may be hard to believe, but even obesity can play a factor in developing esophageal cancer. Studies conducted indicate that 4 percent of men and 7 percent of women who developed cancer had obesity as their primary risk factor. In addition, esophageal cancer had a higher percentage associated with obesity than other types of cancers.
  4. Smoking and Drinking - The link between smoking and cancer is well established, along with drinking. Fortunately, these are habits that can be eliminated to reduce the chances of developing the disease.
  5. Age - Cancer of the esophagus appears to show up more often in the demographic of people past the age of 55. Only 15 percent of cases are developed before then. This could be attributed to an exposure over time of certain toxic substances or the time it takes for acid reflux to develop into other conditions, like Barrett’s esophagus, and subsequently cancer.