Reduce esophageal cancer danger by knowing risk factors

August 7, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- As the American obesity epidemic has increased the past two decades, so has the rate of esophageal cancers. Clinician-scientists affiliated with the University of Cincinnati (UC) Cancer Institute say enhanced public awareness about how the disease develops and what can be done to prevent it might help reduce this trend.  

The is a muscular tube that carries food and liquid from the mouth to the stomach. Among all cancer diagnoses, is relatively rare—the American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 17,500 new cases diagnosed in the United States in 2012, and more than 15,000 deaths from the disease. 

"Esophageal cancer has a precancerous state (Barrett’s esophagus) that can be identified in advance through endoscopy and addressed to help reduce the risk that cancer will develop,” says Sandra Starnes, MD, a UC Healththoracic surgeon and chief of the thoracic surgery division at the UC College of Medicine. 

Barrett’s esophagus occurs when the lining of the tube is damaged by stomach acid and changes to be more similar to that of the stomach—most often as the result of gastroesophageal reflux, or GERD. 

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), include obesity, pregnancy, smoking and hiatal hernias are primary risk factors linked to the GERD. 

"Left untreated, GERD can cause stomach acid to repeatedly wash up into the esophagus, causing the changes that lead to Barrett’s esophagus. People with Barrett’s esophagus are up to 40 times more likely to develop esophageal cancer,” adds Starnes.  

Starnes says heartburn should never be considered "normal.” Although over-the-counter medications to treat heartburn are available, she stresses that chronic heartburn should always be evaluated by a physician to rule out more serious underlying diseases causing the symptoms. Difficulty swallowing should also be evaluated immediately. 

"Our main concern is people who self-medicate for a long time … you want to make sure heartburn is truly reflux versus something else. Having a physician involved to assess the symptoms and help guide decisions about medication is important,” says Starnes. "Some people have self-medicated for 20 years, but never had an endoscopy to gauge whether there were signs of underlying disease, like Barrett’s, which can result in esophageal cancers being diagnosed at later, less treatable stages.” 

Explore further: Untreated heartburn may raise risk for esophageal cancer, study says

Related Stories

Untreated heartburn may raise risk for esophageal cancer, study says

July 26, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Rates of esophageal cancer have surged due to a lack of awareness about what causes the disease and how it can be prevented, experts say.

Esophageal cancer risk higher in medically treated GERD patients with fewest symptoms

July 18, 2011
Medically treated patients with mild or no symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are at higher risk for developing esophageal cancer than those with severe GERD symptoms, according to a University of Pittsburgh ...

Risk of esophageal cancer in patients with Barrett’s esophagus

October 14, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that the risk of patients with Barrett’s esophagus developing adenocarcinoma of the esophagus are not as high as once originally ...

Smoking found to be a risk factor for Barrett's esophagus

April 11, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Cigarette smoking may be a modifiable risk factor for Barrett's esophagus, according to a study published in the April issue of Gastroenterology.

Recommended for you

Lung cancer triggers pulmonary hypertension

November 17, 2017
Shortness of breath and respiratory distress often increase the suffering of advanced-stage lung cancer patients. These symptoms can be triggered by pulmonary hypertension, as scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Heart ...

Computer program finds new uses for old drugs

November 16, 2017
Researchers at the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine have developed a computer program to find new indications for old drugs. The computer program, called DrugPredict, ...

Researchers discover an Achilles heel in a lethal leukemia

November 16, 2017
Researchers have discovered how a linkage between two proteins in acute myeloid leukemia enables cancer cells to resist chemotherapy and showed that disrupting the linkage could render the cells vulnerable to treatment. St. ...

Pharmacoscopy improves therapy for relapsed blood cancer in a first clinical trial

November 16, 2017
Researchers at CeMM and the Medical University of Vienna presented a preliminary report in The Lancet Hematology on the clinical impact of an integrated ex vivo approach called pharmacoscopy. The procedures measure single-cell ...

Wider sampling of tumor tissues may guide drug choice, improve outcomes

November 15, 2017
A new study focused on describing genetic variations within a primary tumor, differences between the primary and a metastatic branch of that tumor, and additional diversity found in tumor DNA in the blood stream could help ...

A new strategy for prevention of liver cancer development

November 14, 2017
Primary liver cancer is now the second leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide, and its incidences and mortality are increasing rapidly in the United Stated. In late stages of the malignancy, there are no effective ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.