Alternate Names : Cancer of the Esophagus
Cancer of the esophagus is a tumor that grows in the lining of the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube connecting the mouth and upper throat to the stomach.
What is going on in the body?
The esophagus carries swallowed food to the stomach using a coordinated muscular effort. There is a muscular door called a sphincter between the esophagus and the stomach. Esophageal cancer can start anywhere along the lining of the esophagus. It begins in the inside lining. It then grows through the muscular wall of the esophagus. It can spread to other parts of the body through the blood or lymphatic system.
What are the causes and risks of the disease?
There appear to be many causes and risk factors for esophageal cancer. Certain conditions, if present for a long time, increase a person's risk for esophageal cancer. These conditions include:
achalasia, a condition in which the esophagus muscle cannot relax
Barrett's esophagus, an ulcer in the esophagus caused by long-term gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD
diverticuli, or pouches in the lining of the esophagus
lye or burn-related damage
tylosis, a genetic skin problem
People who smoke cigarettes, chew tobacco, and drink alcohol are at a higher risk for this cancer. It is also thought that chronic and recurring irritation can increase the risk of esophageal cancer. These irritations include drinking very hot liquids, eating pickled foods, and being exposed to environmental toxins.
Esophageal cancer is rarely seen in people younger than 25 years old. The disease is more common in men than in women. It is seen more often in African Americans than in Caucasians. Overall, esophageal cancer is relatively uncommon in the United States. In some parts of Asia it is the second most common cancer, accounting for as much as 50% of all cancer deaths.