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Esophageal Disorders

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Am I at Risk for Esophageal Cancer?

There are two main types of esophageal cancer: squamous cell cancer and adenocarcinoma of the esophagus. Squamous cell cancers occur most commonly in individuals who smoke cigarettes, use tobacco products, and drink alcohol.

In addition, African Americans are also at increased risk of developing this type of cancer. This cancer is also very common in many areas in Asia. The frequency of squamous cell cancer of the esophagus in the United States has remained the same.

Another cancer, adenocarcinoma of the esophagus, primarily occurs most commonly in people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It is also very common in Caucasian males with increased weight. Adenocarcinoma of the esophagus is increasing in frequency.

The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn, a condition that 20 percent of American adults experience at least twice a week. Although these individuals are at increased risk of developing esophageal cancer, the vast majority of them will never develop it. But in a few patients with GERD (about 10 to 15 percent of patients), a change in the lining of the esophagus develops near the area where the esophagus and stomach join. When this happens, the condition is called Barrett's esophagus.

Doctors believe that most cases of adenocarcinoma of the esophagus begin in Barrett's esophagus
(click here for more information about Barrett's esophagus )