Many conditions have been identified which can predispose esophagus cancer. Chronic irritation of the cells of the esophagus due to certain disorder or food habit has been identified as the major risk factor for esophagus cancer. Following is a list of such esophagus cancer risk factors:
- Tobacco/Cigarette Smoking: Chronic tobacco chewing or cigarette smoking exposes the esophagus cells to carcinogenic chemicals, which increases the risk of esophageal cancer. This has been identified as one of the major risk factors for esophageal cancer.
- Excessive Alcohol Consumption: Chronic alcohol use irritates the esophagus by itself or it may render the esophagus susceptible to other carcinogens. Various population-based studies worldwide have shown that alcohol use can increase the risk of esophageal cancer in a dose-dependent manner.
- Excessive consumption of hot beverages: Excessive drinking of hot liquids or eating hot food can cause thermal injury to the esophagus leading to esophageal cancer.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): It is a disorder in which stomach’s acidic content reflux into the esophagus, generally due to malfunctioning of the lower esophageal sphincter. Unlike stomach cells, esophagus cells are not capable of withstanding the acidic conditions. Thus, prolonged exposure of the lower esophagus to stomach acid content causes irritation of the cells in that region, which may lead to cancerous changes in the cells.
- Industrial/Occupational exposure: Occupational exposure to heavy metals or harmful gases/fumes also increases the risk of esophageal cancer.
- Achalasia: It is a condition characterized by the accumulation of food in the lower esophagus due to incomplete relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter. This causes irritation of esophagus by the retained food and increases the risk of esophageal cancer by several folds.
- Barrett’s esophagus: It is a condition in which pre-cancerous changes take place in the lower esophagus by reflux of stomach acid for a long time. This condition may arise due to certain disorders like GERD. Patients with Barrett’s esophagus are generally at higher risk of developing esophageal cancer.
- Older Age: Higher age individuals, especially men are at significantly higher risk of developing esophageal cancer.
Diet deficient in fruits and vegetables, obesity, low socioeconomic status, infection with Helicobacter pylori or human papillomavirus (HPV), and certain hereditary disorders like Plummer–Vinson syndrome and tylosis have also shown to increase the risk of esophagus cancer.
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