Can Cancer of the Esophagus Be Prevented?

The risk of developing this disease can be greatly reduced by avoiding certain risk factors.

Some risk factors such as age, sex, and race cannot be changed. Other lifestyle risk factors can be changed to reduce the risk of cancer. In the United States, the most important lifestyle risk factors for cancer of the esophagus are tobacco use and alcohol abuse. The risk of esophageal cancer increases by 18 times in people who drink more than about 13 ounces of alcohol a day for years. If this same person smokes at least 1 to 2 packs of cigarettes a day, the risk of esophageal cancer increases 44 times. Avoiding these 2 factors is the best way to reduce the risk of esophageal cancer.

Diet and exercise are also important. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, especially if eaten raw, is thought to help protect against esophageal cancer. Also, since obesity has been associated with esophageal cancer, particularly the adenocarcinoma type, physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the risk of this disease.

Some studies have found that the risk of cancer of the esophagus is reduced in people who take aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, also called NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen. Regular NSAID use should be discussed carefully with your doctor, to determine the potential benefits and risks of NSAID use in your case.

In addition, persons at increased risk for esophageal cancer, such as those with Barrett esophagus, may undergo surveillance testing to monitor whether the abnormal cells progress any further. If a pre-cancerous condition called dysplasia is detected, the doctor may make suggestions in an effort to prevent further progression to esophageal cancer.

A preliminary report found that people with Barrett esophagus were less likely to develop early cancer-like changes if they were taking drugs called proton pump inhibitors. These drugs are often used to reduce stomach acid in people with heartburn. This report needs to be confirmed by others.

Provided by ArmMed Media