Esophageal cancer is cancer that occurs in the esophagus —a long, hollow tube that runs from your throat to your stomach. Your esophagus helps move the food you swallow from the back of your throat to your stomach to be digested.
Esophageal cancer usually begins in the cells that line the inside of the esophagus. Esophageal cancer can occur anywhere along the esophagus. More men than women get esophageal cancer.
Esophageal cancer is the sixth most common cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Incidence rates vary within different geographic-locations. In some regions, higher rates of esophageal cancer may be attributed to tobacco and alcohol use or nutritional habits and obesity.
- About 20,640 new esophageal cancer cases diagnosed (16,510 in men and 4,130 in women)
- About 16,410 deaths from esophageal cancer (13,250 in men and 3,160 in women)
- Esophageal cancer is more common among men than among women. The lifetime risk of esophageal cancer in the United States is about 1 in 125 in men and about 1 in 417 in women. (See Esophageal Cancer Risk Factors to learn about factors that can affect these chances.)
- Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of cancer of the esophagus among caucasians, while squamous cell carcinoma is more common in African Americans. American Indian/Alaska Natives and Hispanics have lower rates of esophageal cancer, followed by Asians/Pacific Islanders.
- Although many people with esophageal cancer will go on to die from this disease, treatment has improved, and survival rates are getting better. During the 1960s and 1970s, only about 5% of patients survived at least 5 years after being diagnosed. Now, about 20% of patients survive at least 5 years after diagnosis. This number includes patients with all stages of esophageal cancer. Survival rates for people with early-stage cancer are higher.