Reducing the Risk of Esophageal Cancer
Several factors can affect your risk of developing esophageal cancer. Some are more likely to increase the risk for adenocarcinoma of the esophagus and others for squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus.
Risk factors do not mean that you will get esophageal cancer. And some people who get the disease may not have any known risk factors.
Risk Factors of Esophageal Cancer
Factors that cause irritation in the cells of your esophagus and increase your risk of esophageal cancer include:
Risk factors include:
- Age: Your risk of developing esophageal cancer increases with age. Less than 15% of cases are in those younger than 55 years old.
- Gender: Men are more likely to develop esophageal cancer than women.
- Tobacco use: Tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and chewing tobacco present a significant risk factor for esophageal cancer, and the longer someone uses tobacco products, the greater the risk.
- Alcohol use: Drinking alcohol increases the risk of esophageal cancer. Smoking and drinking combined further increases the risk.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): The strong acid and enzymes produced in the stomach escape and move into the lower part of the esophagus, causing symptoms like heartburn. GERD is very common, and most do not develop esophageal cancer.
- Barrett’s Esophagus: Stomach acid present in the esophagus for a long time can damage the esophagus’s inner lining, causing squamous cells in the esophagus with gland cells. This condition leads to Barrett’s esophagus, which puts people at a much greater risk of developing adenocarcinoma of the esophagus. The gland cells can become more abnormal over time, resulting in dysplasia, a pre-cancerous condition. Low-grade dysplasia looks more like normal cells, while high-grade dysplasia is more abnormal.
- Obesity: Obesity can cause gastroesophageal reflux, increasing the chances of developing adenocarcinoma of the esophagus.
- Poor diet: Diets high in processed meat may increase one’s chances of getting esophageal cancer. A diet high in fruits and vegetables is likely to lower the risk of many cancers, including esophageal cancer, thanks to their high vitamin and mineral content.
- Lack of exercise: People who do not exercise regularly have a higher risk of adenocarcinoma of the esophagus.
- Achalasia: This condition causes the muscle at the lower end of the esophagus does not to relax. Food and liquids cannot pass into the stomach but instead collect in the lower esophagus, which causes the esophagus to dilate with time and represent a higher risk of esophageal cancer down the road.
How to Lower the Risk of Esophageal Cancer
While some risks may be out of your control, you can take specific steps to lower your chances by avoiding certain risk factors.
Here are the most significant risks factors you can control:
- Quit smoking, or don’t start
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Get treated for GERD or Barrett’s esophagus
- Exercise regularly
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Maintain a healthy weight
The right foods and beverages can help strengthen your body and give it the nutrients it needs to ward off the risk of esophageal cancer.
- Colorful fruits and vegetables – Green and yellow fruits and vegetables offer the best esophageal cancer-fighting protection. Aim for at least five servings of fruits every day.
- Dietary fiber has anticarcinogenic effects, which may modulate gastroesophageal reflux.
- Tea is rich in antioxidants, which may help prevent cancer.
- Coffee also contains certain anticarcinogenic compounds and suppresses cyclin-dependent kinase-4-induced cell growth. The caféstol and kahweol can protect your DNA from damage.
The experienced oncologists at Astera Cancer Care can help you identify the potential risks and early warning signs of esophageal cancer. Get peace of mind for yourself or a loved one by speaking with Astera Cancer Care to discuss cancer risks and treatments.
Take the first step by calling Astera Cancer Care today at (732) 390-7750.