There isn’t a known, single cause of esophageal cancer.

Cancer risk refers to a person’s risk of developing cancer. Any substance or condition that increases the risk of cancer is referred to as a risk factor.

Most cancers are the result of many risk factors. However, some people with esophageal cancer do not have any identifiable risk factors.  The Canadian Cancer Society provides a fairly comprehensive list of potential risk factors.

The following are Risk Factors listed by the different types of EC:


One major factor is frequent exposure of the esophagus to stomach acid, or acid reflux.  Having a Hiatus Hernia will cause acid reflux, which may give rise to gastric-esophageal reflux disease or GERD.

In time, GERD may develop into a condition called Barrett’s esophagus in which the cells lining the esophagus are structurally altered by long term exposure to stomach acid. Barrett’s esophagus itself does not affect the health of a person. However, in a small number of people there is a chance that these altered cells will develop into a pre-cancerous state and eventually into an invasive carcinoma.

Obesity is linked to this cancer as well.

Squamous Cell carcinoma

Some of the common major risk factors are smoking, alcohol abuse, dietary factors, and drinking liquids at extremely hot temperatures.

Squamous Cell carcinoma historically had higher incidence in the US than Adenocarcinoma, but that relationship has inverted recently. Squamous Cell incidence remains high in India and China.

Even though a multitude of risk factors and diseases affect the esophagus in various ways, the warning signs are similar. The symptoms are found to very similar in nature and the ways in which they get treated also are found to be similar (depending on stages). The progression of disease to happens in the same manner as they start from the outer most cell tissues and layers to the deep parts of the esophagus and from there to the surrounding organs and lymph nodes.

References:1. Janssen, S.J., Solomon, G., Schettler, T. Chemical Contaminants and Human Disease: A Summary of Evidence (See also: & Lynge, E. et al. Organic Solvents and Cancer. Cancer Causes and Control 1997;8:406-419.3. Baker SR and Wilkinson CF, ed. The Effects of  Pesticides on Human Health.  Workshop Proceedings, Advances in Modern Environmental Toxicology XVIII.  May 9-11, 1998.  Princeton Science Publishing, Princeton

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