Esophageal cancer is a cancerous (malignant) tumor of the esophagus, the muscular tube that moves food from the mouth to the stomach.
See also: Barrett’s esophagus
Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
Esophageal cancer is relatively uncommon in the United States. It occurs most often in men over 50 years old. Two main types of esophageal cancer exist: squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. These two types look different from each other under the microscope.
Squamous cell esophageal cancer is associated with smoking and alcohol consumption.
Barrett’s esophagus, a complication of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), significantly increases the risk for adenocarcinoma of the esophagus. Other risk factors for adenocarcinoma of the esophagus include:
- Alcohol use
- Male gender
- Poor nutrition
Pictures & Images
The esophagus, stomach, large and small intestine, aided by the liver, gallbladder and pancreas convert the nutritive components of food into energy and break down the non-nutritive components into waste to be excreted.
Heartburn is a condition where the acidic stomach contents back up into the esophagus causing pain in the chest area. This reflux usually occurs because the sphincter muscle between the esophagus and stomach is weakened. Standing or sitting after a meal can help reduce the reflux which causes heartburn. Continuous irritation of the esophagus lining as in gastroesophageal reflux disease is a risk factor for the development of adenocarcinoma.
Review Date : 10/20/2009
Reviewed By : David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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