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  • What is esophageal cancer?
    • Cancer that forms in tissues lining the esophagus (the muscular tube through which food passes from the throat to the stomach). Two types of esophageal cancer are squamous cell carcinoma (cancer that begins in flat cells lining the esophagus) and adenocarcinoma (cancer that begins in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids).

      In 2011, in the United States, it was estimated that there were 16,980 new cases and 14,710 deaths from esophageal cancer.

  • How is esophageal cancer related to the environment?
    • Long term exposure to higher nitrate levels in drinking water has been suggested as a risk factor for esophageal cancer.

  • What are the risk factors for esophageal cancer?
    • The following risk factors may make it more likely that a person develops esophageal cancer:

      *Age 65 or older: Age is the main risk factor for esophageal cancer. The chance of getting this disease goes up as you get older. In the United States, most people are 65 years of age or older when they are diagnosed with esophageal cancer.
      * Being male: In the United States, men are more than three times as likely as women to develop esophageal cancer.
      * Smoking: People who smoke are more likely than people who don't smoke to develop esophageal cancer.
      * Heavy drinking: People who have more than 3 alcoholic drinks each day are more likely than people who don't drink to develop squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus. Heavy drinkers who smoke are at a much higher risk than heavy drinkers who don't smoke. In other words, these two factors act together to increase the risk even more.
      * Diet: Studies suggest that having a diet that's low in fruits and vegetables may increase the risk of esophageal cancer. However, results from diet studies don't always agree, and more research is needed to better understand how diet affects the risk of developing esophageal cancer.
      * Obesity: Being obese increases the risk of adenocarcinoma of the esophagus.
      * Acid reflux: Acid reflux is the abnormal backward flow of stomach acid into the esophagus. Reflux is very common. A symptom of reflux is heartburn, but some people don't have symptoms. The stomach acid can damage the tissue of the esophagus. After many years of reflux, this tissue damage may lead to adenocarcinoma of the esophagus in some people.
      *Barrett esophagus: Acid reflux may damage the esophagus and over time cause a condition known as Barrett esophagus. The cells in the lower part of the esophagus are abnormal. Most people who have Barrett esophagus don't know it. The presence of Barrett esophagus increases the risk of adenocarcinoma of the esophagus. It's a greater risk factor than acid reflux alone.

      Having a risk factor doesn't mean that a person will develop cancer of the esophagus. Most people who have risk factors never develop esophageal cancer.

  • What are the symptoms of esophageal cancer?
    • Early esophageal cancer may not cause symptoms. As the cancer grows, the most common symptoms are:

      * Food gets stuck in the esophagus, and food may come back up
      * Pain when swallowing
      * Pain in the chest or back
      * Weight loss
      * Heartburn
      * A hoarse voice or cough that doesn't go away within 2 weeks

      These symptoms may be caused by esophageal cancer or other health problems. If you have any of these symptoms, you should tell your doctor so that problems can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.

  • How do you prevent esophageal cancer?
    • The following protective factors may decrease the risk of esophageal cancer:

      * Avoiding tobacco and alcohol use. Many studies have shown that the risk of esophageal cancer is lower in people who do not use tobacco and alcohol.
      * Diet. A diet high in green and yellow fruits and vegetables and cruciferous vegetables (such as cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower) may lower the risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus.
      * Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Some studies have shown that the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may lower the risk of esophageal cancer. NSAIDS include aspirin and other drugs that reduce swelling and pain. Use of NSAIDs, however, increases the risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, bleeding in the stomach and intestines, and kidney damage.
      * Radiofrequency ablation. Radiofrequency ablation is being studied in clinical trials for certain patients with Barrett esophagus. This procedure uses radio waves to heat and destroy abnormal cells, which may become cancer.

Last Revised: January 28, 2014

Data

Data Query

Esophageal Cancer Data:
Access the esophageal cancer data in the WI EPHT online database. Review the Data Details below to learn about interpreting the data.

The WI EPHT online database has data about other specific cancers:

Data Details

What is the data source?

The website provides data from the Wisconsin Cancer Reporting System, which is maintained by the Office of Health Informatics, Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

How does WI EPHT measure cancer?

The WI EPHT website includes the following measures:

  • counts for each cancer type
  • age adjusted rate for each cancer type

What are some considerations for interpreting the data?

While significant effort is made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the data, there are limitations that are listed below:

  • Reporting may be less complete from rural versus urban areas of the state.
  • Reporting may be less complete for cases where diagnosis and/or treatment occurs in a different state.
  • Reporting completeness is different depending on the type of cancer.

There are many factors that can contribute to a disease and should be considered when interpreting the data. Some of these include:

  • Demographics, e.g., race, gender, age
  • Socioeconomic Status, e.g., income level, education
  • Geographic, e.g., urban vs. rural
  • Changes in the medical field, e.g., diagnosis patterns, reporting requirements
  • Individual behavior, e.g., diet, smoking