Esophageal Cancer: Risk Factors


Risk factors for esophageal cancer include:


People between the ages of 45 and 70 are at greatest risk. Most people who develop esophageal cancer are over age 60.


Men are nearly three times more likely than women to develop esophageal cancer.


People of African American decent are twice as likely as Caucasians to develop esophageal cancer.

Tobacco Use

Using any form of tobacco, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco and snuff, raises the risk of esophageal cancer.

Alcohol Use

Heavy drinking over the long term increases the risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus, especially when combined with tobacco use.

Barrett’s Esophagus

This condition can develop in some people who have chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus), even when a person does not experience symptoms of chronic heartburn. Damage to the lining of the esophagus causes abnormal changes in cells. This is a premalignant condition that is most likely to develop into adenocarcinoma of the esophagus.


A diet that is low in fruits and vegetables and certain vitamins and minerals can increase a person’s risk of developing esophageal cancer.


Being severely overweight and having an excess of body fat can increase a person’s risk of developing esophageal adenocarcinoma.

Lye Ingestion

Lye ingestion by children is associated with an increase in squamous cell carcinoma. Lye can be found in some cleansing products, such as drain cleaners.


Achalasia is a condition when the lower muscular ring of the esophagus fails to relax during swallowing of food and increases the risk of squamous cell carcinoma.

Medical History

Patients who have had other head and neck cancers have an increased chance of developing a second cancer in the head and neck area, including esophageal cancer.