Factors that increase the risk of esophageal cancer

The risk of esophageal cancer increases with age, and the longer a person smokes and drinks alcohol, the higher the risk of cancer.

According to the Global Cancer Organization (Globocan) estimates in 2020, esophageal cancer ranks 6th in the number of causes of cancer death in the world. The disease is usually detected at a late stage.

Doctor, Dr. Vu Truong Khanh, Head of Gastroenterology - Hepatobiliary - Pancreatic Department, Tam Anh General Hospital, said that the 5-year survival rate after detecting the disease is about 15-25%. More than 90% of esophageal cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, while adenocarcinomas of the esophagus are uncommon. In Asia in general, and in Vietnam in particular, the majority of esophageal squamous cell carcinomas are associated with smoking and alcohol consumption, and are common in men.

There are many factors that increase the risk of esophageal cancer. Although risk factors often influence the development of the disease, most are not the direct cause. Here are some common risk factors to watch out for, according to Dr. Khanh.

Age, gender

The chance of getting esophageal cancer increases with age. People over the age of 65 have the highest risk of esophageal cancer. Men are three to four times more likely to get this disease than women.

Smoking and drinking alcohol

According to Dr. Khanh, smoking is a factor associated with squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus. Smokers are five times more likely to develop this disease than non-smokers. The more tobacco is used and the longer it is used, the higher the risk of cancer. People who smoke one pack or more of cigarettes per day have twice the risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma compared with non-smokers, and this risk does not go away if use is stopped.

The risk of esophageal cancer is common in people over 65 years of age, who smoke. Photo: Shutterstock

Drinking alcohol increases the risk of esophageal cancer. Ethanol in alcohol is metabolized by alcohol dehydrogenase to form acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde interacts with DNA causing gene mutations. Alcohol is one of the risk factors for developing upper gastrointestinal cancers, including esophageal cancer. The more alcohol you drink, the higher your chances of getting esophageal cancer. Smoking combined with alcohol consumption increases the risk of squamous cell carcinoma.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease and Barrett's esophagus

Severe cases of gastroesophageal reflux disease increase the risk of esophageal cancer, mainly adenocarcinoma, which is rare in Vietnam. Barrett's esophagus can develop in some people with chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or esophagitis.

Acid reflux into the esophagus for a long time causes damage to the lining of the esophagus, causing the squamous cells in the lining of the esophagus to turn into glandular tissue. Having GERD for many years increases the risk of developing adenocarcinoma of the esophagus. However, short esophageal barrettes (less than 3 cm in length) especially less than 1 m in size have not been shown to increase the risk of esophageal cancer.


A diet low in fruits and vegetables and high in processed meat may increase the risk of esophageal cancer. Some studies have linked esophageal cancer with a deficiency of beta-carotene, vitamin E, selenium or iron. Intake of omega-3 fatty acids, polyunsaturated fats, fiber from fruits and vegetables, vitamin C and beta-carotene, and vitamin E have been linked to a reduced risk of being diagnosed with the disease.

Regularly drinking very hot liquids can also increase your risk of squamous cell esophageal cancer. This may be the result of long-term damage to the cells lining the esophagus from hot liquids.

Proper nutrition, vitamin and mineral supplements help reduce the risk of esophageal cancer. Photo: Shutterstock


People who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma. This may be because obese people are more prone to acid reflux. Many studies have shown that a high BMI (greater than 25) is associated with an increased risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma. Cardiac spasm, physical inactivity, hereditary tylosis, Plummer-Vinson syndrome, HPV infection, esophageal lesions... are also risk factors that can cause this type of cancer. This.

Dr. Khanh further noted that the risk of esophageal cancer can be reduced by making some lifestyle changes such as limiting or eliminating alcohol consumption, stopping tobacco use, adopting a fruit-rich diet. and vegetables, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly... Most patients don't feel any difference until esophageal cancer has progressed to an advanced stage. Consideration of risk factors and periodic screening through endoscopy can help doctors detect timely and treat.


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Esophageal ulcers caused by drugs occur when lying down to take medicine, drink little water ... causing the drug to get stuck in the esophagus; Too much drug concentration causes ulcers, which can cause complications. 

Foods that make gastroesophageal reflux disease worse
Spicy, high-fat, greasy, fried foods can cause bloating, indigestion, increased acid secretion, etc., making gastroesophageal reflux worse. 

Who is prone to gastroesophageal reflux?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease can occur at any age, but some people are at higher risk such as smokers, diaphragmatic hernia, pregnant women.  20

Things not to do when you have gastroesophageal reflux
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