The esophagus is a thin tube that connects the mouth to the stomach. Esophageal cancer mostly develops in the lining of this tube and as the condition progresses, it may spread to nearby parts via metastasis. The exact cause of this progressive condition is unknown. However, there are several risk factors that increase the chances of developing cancer. Here is a brief overview of them.
The risk increases with age as the body’s ability to protect and promote the healthy repair of damaged cells deteriorates. Thus, men and women between the ages of 45 to 50 and above are at a higher risk of cancer.
- Gender and ethnicity
Esophageal cancer is more common among men in comparison to women. Ethnicity also plays a crucial role as the condition is more prevalent among those of African-American descent. The risk needs to be strictly monitored with these two factors.
Obesity or being overweight in general is another common risk factor. One must also take into account the damage done to the body due to an improper diet and the resulting weight gain. A diet that has no nutritional value also increases the risk of vitamin deficiencies, which has recently been linked to the development of esophageal cancer.
- Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease (GERD)
People who suffer from symptoms of GERD are at a higher risk of damaging their esophageal lining due to acid reflux. The strong stomach enzymes and digestive fluids are thrown up into the tube from the stomach due to a malfunctioning LES and trigger heartburn or pain.
- Exposure to certain chemicals
Exposure to corrosive chemicals in dangerous work environments also increases the chances of cancer. A common risk includes the accidental ingestion of lye, which is a chemical found in strong industrial drain cleaners. The chemical is highly reactive and destroys the cells throughout the lining. Accidental consumption is also possible at a very young age due to negligence.
- Smoking and drinking
Simply put, the more alcohol one consumes on a regular basis, the higher are the chances of squamous cell carcinoma (one of the common types) growing in the esophageal lining. Excessive use of tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, or even chewing tobacco also increases the risk of this type of cancer.
Note that as the condition advances, the condition may result in the obstruction of the esophagus and cause sudden bouts of pain and bleeding.