Reducing Your Risk of Esophageal Cancer

A risk factor is something that increases your chances of developing cancer. Some risk factors cannot be changed, such as family history or genetics. Fortunately, many risk factors can be modified.

Quit Smoking

Tobacco use is the biggest risk factor associated with esophageal cancer. People who smoke and drink carry an even higher risk than doing one or the other alone. All forms of smoking, including opioid drugs, introduces a variety of harmful chemicals into your body. The sooner smoking is stopped, the sooner your body can start to heal.

Your doctor can help you with quitting smoking and opioid abuse.

Drink Alcohol Only in Moderation

Excess alcohol intake is also associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer. Adding smoking to excess alcohol intake multiplies the risk of esophageal cancer. If you drink, aim for moderation. Moderation is a maximum of one drink per day for women and a maximum of two drinks per day for men.

Talk to your doctor if you are having trouble controlling how much you drink.

Eat a Healthful Diet    TOP

There is evidence to support eating a healthful diet to reduce your risk of esophageal and many other types of cancer. In general, aim for a diet high in fruits and vegetables, and dietary fiber, and fewer servings of dairy, processed foods, and red meat. Good nutrition supports your body's immune system and can help maintain a healthy weight.

Avoid drinking hot beverages right away. Allow them to cool down for a short period of time.

Exercise Regularly    TOP

Regular physical activity has many benefits. It reduces the risk of many cancers and helps with overall well-being. Aim for at least 30 minutes of regular exercise on most days of the week. The higher the amount of physical activity the greater the reduction in risk.

Manage Occupational Exposures    TOP

Chemical exposure can occur in many different jobs. If possible, try to find work in a different environment. If it is unavoidable, take steps to protect yourself from inhaling harmful chemicals. Check with the or the about any available protective guidelines.

Manage Environmental Exposures    TOP

Irritation caused by external substances can also increase the risk of cancer. The irritants may be inhaled or intentionally delivered.

Previous radiation exposure can cause problems, but is not always avoidable. Radiation accumulates in the body over the course of a lifetime. Talk to your doctor or dentist about the risks and benefits of any radiation exposure.

Avoid inhalation of harsh, burning chemicals like lye or drain cleaner. Keep chemicals in clearly marked containers and locked away, especially if you have children.

Manage Health Conditions    TOP

If you have any health conditions that put you at a high risk of esophageal cancer, be sure to follow your treatment plan. High risk conditions may include:

  • Barrett’s esophagus—Your doctor may advise that you have regular endoscopy tests to watch for changes that may indicate cancer.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease—Take any medications as prescribed, even if you are feeling well and have no symptoms.
  • Obesity—If you need help making a weight loss plan, consult with a registered dietitian.
  • Achalasia—Take any medications as prescribed, even if you are feeling well and have no symptoms.
  • Nutritional deficiencies—Talk to a registered dietitian about eating a balanced diet. This may include supplements for any deficiencies that need to be corrected.

Talk to Your Doctor About the Benefits of Aspirin    TOP

Some studies have found a link between aspirin use and reduced rates of esophageal cancer. Since taking aspirin can have side effects, including gastrointestinal bleeding, talk to your doctor before starting any aspirin therapy.



Esophageal and esophagogastric junction cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated January 18, 2016. Accessed January 3, 2017.
Esophageal cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated July 2014. Accessed January 3, 2017.
Esophagus cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed January 3, 2017.
6/17/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed...: Liu X, Wang X, Lin S, Yuan J, Yu IT. Dietary patterns and oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Cancer. 2014;110(11):2785-2795.
1/22/2015 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed...: Chen Y, Yu C, Li Y. Physical activity and risks of esophageal and gastric cancers: a meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2014;9(2):e88082.
Last reviewed December 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Last Updated: 12/17/2015


EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.