What Is Esophageal Cancer?

The esophagus is the muscular tube extending from the neck to the abdomen, connecting the mouth to the stomach. Esophageal cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells in the esophagus. The lining of the esophagus is the most common region for cancers of the esophagus to start to grow, this type of esophageal cancer is known as squamous cell carcinoma. Other types of esophageal cancer include:

  • Adenocarcinomas
  • Sarcomas
  • Small cell cancer

Esophageal cancer is not nearly as common as breast, lung, prostate or colon cancer, with annual incidence rates between 12,000 and 18,000 new cases in the United States. The number varies because sometimes cancers in the lower esophagus may be classified as stomach cancer.

Risk factors

Most people esophageal cancer develops in individuals age 50 years and older. In the United States, men tend to develop squamous cell cancers more often than women, and African-Americans more than Caucasians. Adenocarcinomas are also more common in men than women and are much more likely to occur in Caucasians than in minorities.