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There are many risk factors associated with esophageal cancer, though having one or more of these factors does not necessarily mean that you will develop esophageal cancer. In fact, most people who have these risk factors will not develop esophageal cancer. Still, these risks factors do significantly increase the risk of having esophageal cancer compared to patients without those risk factors. In addition, some people without major risk factors can also develop the disease.
Esophageal cancer risk factors include:
GERD: Having Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease irritates the lining of your esophagus and can lead to cancer
Barrett’s esophagus: This is a pre-cancerous change to the lining of your esophagus, typically found in patients who have a history of GERD.
Swallowing difficulties: Having difficulty swallowing because an esophageal sphincter won’t relax can lead to chronic irritation of the esophagus
Drinking alcohol: Heavy alcohol use is associated with an higher risk of esophageal cancer, possibily due to irritation of the cells of the esophagus
Smoking: Your risk of developing esophageal cancer increases with the number of cigarettes you smoke each day and the number of years you have smoked. Quitting at any age lowers your risk of developing esophageal cancer.
Obesity: Obesity is associated with digestive conditions such as reflux that can irritate the lining of the esophagus
Exposure to radiation: Radiation therapy to the chest from childhood through early adulthood increases esophageal cancer risk.
Ethnicity and Geography: The incidence of esophageal cancer is very high in some regions in Asian countries such as China and Japan. The exact reason for the higher rate of cancer in these locations is not known, but is felt to possibly due to environmental factors or dietary habits such as drinking very hot liquids.
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