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Blake Medical Center

Reducing Your Risk of Esophageal Cancer

A risk factor is something that increases your chances of developing cancer. Some risk factors cannot be changed, such as family history or genetics. Fortunately, many risk factors can be modified.

Quit Smoking

Tobacco use is the biggest risk factor associated with esophageal cancer. People who smoke and drink carry an even higher risk than doing one or the other alone. All forms of smoking, including opioid drugs, introduces a variety of harmful chemicals into your body. The sooner smoking is stopped, the sooner your body can start to heal.

Your doctor can help you with quitting smoking and opioid abuse.

Drink Alcohol Only in Moderation

Excess alcohol intake is also associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer. Adding smoking to excess alcohol intake multiplies the risk of esophageal cancer. If you drink aim for moderation, a maximum of one drink per day for women and a maximum of two drinks per day for men.

Talk to your doctor if you are having trouble controlling how much you drink.

Eat a Healthful Diet

There is evidence to support eating a healthful diet to reduce your risk of esophageal and many other types of cancer. Aim for a diet high fruits and vegetables, and dietary fiber, and fewer servings of dairy, processed foods, and red meat.

Exercise Regularly

Regular physical activity has many benefits. It reduces the risk of many cancers and helps with overall well-being. Aim for at least 30 minutes of regular exercise on most days of the week. The higher the amount of physical activity the greater the reduction in risk.

Avoid Ingesting Irritants

Some foods and drinks are associated with esophageal irritation. Irritation causes inflammation and perhaps minor damage in esophagus. Overtime this can increase the risk of cancer. Avoid intake of these substances to help decrease your risk:

  • Very hot beverages
  • Toxins in pickled vegetables

Manage Environmental Exposures

Irritation caused by external substances can also increase the risk of cancer. The irritants may be inhaled or intentionally delivered.

Previous radiation exposure can cause problems but is not always avoidable. Radiation accumulates in the body over the course of a lifetime. Talk to your doctor or dentist about the risks and benefits of any radiation exposure.

Avoid inhalation of harsh, burning chemicals like lye or drain cleaner. Keep chemicals in clearly marked containers and locked away, especially if you have children.

Manage Health Conditions

If you have any health conditions that put you at a high risk of esophageal cancer, be sure to follow your treatment plan. High risk conditions may include:

  • Barrett’s esophagus —Your doctor may advise that you have regular endoscopy tests to watch for changes that may indicate cancer.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease —Take any medications as prescribed, even if you are feeling well and have no symptoms.
  • Obesity —If you need help making a weight loss plan, consult with a registered dietitian.
  • Achalasia —Take any medications as prescribed, even if you are feeling well and have no symptoms.
  • Nutritional deficiencies

Talk to Your Doctor About the Benefits of Aspirin

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 starting any aspirin therapy.

Revision Information

  • Esophageal and esophagogastric junction cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated August 10, 2015. Accessed December 17, 2015.

  • Esophageal cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Updated July 2014. Accessed December 17, 2015.

  • Esophagus cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at Accessed December 17, 2015.

  • 6/17/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Liu X, Wang X, Lin S, Yuan J, Yu IT. 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 Chen Y, Yu C, Li Y. Physical activity and risks of esophageal and gastric cancers: a meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2014;9(2):e88082.