Ricker Polsdorfer, MD
A risk factor increases your chances of developing cancer. Modifying the following risk factors may help reduce your risk of esophageal cancer.
The single most important way to reduce your risk of esophageal cancer is to reduce alcohol intake to no more than two drinks a day. Alcohol intake increases your risk by 10-25 times, depending upon the strength of the drink. Combined with smoking, the risks are multiplied.
Moderate smoking, by itself, does not greatly increase the risk of this particular disease, but it does promote many other diseases including several other cancers. Heavy smoking, particularly of black tobacco, a term of interest primarily to pipe smokers, at least doubles your risk.
Talk to your doctor about how you can
There is evidence to support eating a healthful diet to reduce your risk of esophageal cancer. This includes eating more
fruits and vegetables, and foods high in dietary fiber, and less dairy, processed foods, and red meat.
Regular physical activity has many benefits. It reduces the risk of heart disease and helps with overall well-being. Several studies have linked exercise with a decreased risk of esophageal cancer. Aim for at least 30 minutes of regular exercise on most days of the week. Increased amounts of physical activity is associated with bigger reductions in risk.
Some esophageal irritants have been identified. Avoid intake of these substances to help decrease your risk:
The two main environmental irritants are radiation and smoked opiates.
There is not much you can do about the radiation you have received already from cancer treatment or industrial exposure, but the more you have already been exposed to, the greater should be your caution in the future. Radiation damage is cumulative over your lifetime.
Don’t smoke opium. If you do, talk with your doctor about quitting.
Make sure that you get treatment for any conditions that you have, such as:
Some studies have found a link between aspirin use and reduced rates of esophageal cancer. Since taking aspirin can have side effects, including gastrointestinal bleeding, talk to your doctor before deciding to start aspirin therapy.
Esophageal cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated June 2, 2013. Accessed August 5, 2013.
Esophageal cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at:
http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/esophageal. Accessed August 5, 2013.
Esophagus cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at
http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003098-pdf.pdf. Accessed August 5, 2013.
6/17/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Liu X, Wang X, et al. Dietary patterns and oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
Br J Cancer. 2014;110(11):2785-2795.
1/22/2015 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Chen Y, Yu C, et al. Physical activity and risks of esophageal and gastric cancers: A meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2014;9(2):e88082.
Last reviewed May 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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