Although it's not possible to prevent all cases of esophageal cancer,
the following lifestyle changes can greatly reduce your risk:
This may be the single most important thing you can do to prevent
esophageal cancer and improve your overall health. Cigarette smoke
contains carcinogens that can damage the DNA that regulates cell
Nearly three-fourths of esophageal squamous cell carcinomas and many
adenocarcinomas result from heavy alcohol consumption over a period
of years. Drinking in moderation or abstaining from alcohol can
greatly reduce your risk of this type of esophageal cancer.
Get help for
Don't ignore severe or frequent
heartburn. Your doctor can recommend
medications and lifestyle changes that can help prevent gastric
reflux. Sometimes drugs that inhibit acid formation may provide the
relief you need. You may also be helped by avoiding acidic, spicy or
fatty foods, by waiting at least two to three hours after eating
before lying down or exercising, and by elevating the head of your
Eat a healthy
Eating more fruits and vegetables, especially those rich in
beta-carotene, and vitamins A, C and B-1, can help protect against
esophageal cancer. Look for deep green and dark yellow or orange
fruits and vegetables, such as Swiss chard, bok choy, spinach,
cantaloupe, mango, acorn or butternut squash, and sweet potatoes.
Also try to eat vegetables from the cabbage family, including
broccoli, brussels sprouts and cauliflower. Lycopene, a nutrient
found in tomatoes and other red fruits and vegetables, such as
strawberries and red bell peppers, may be a particularly powerful
anticancer chemical. Because diets low in selenium have been linked
to esophageal cancer, try to include foods rich in this mineral,
such as milk, broccoli, cabbage, fish and whole grains. Healthy
adults should ingest at least 55 micrograms (mcg) of selenium every
day. A slice of whole-wheat bread contains 10 mcgs.
Being significantly overweight (obese) increases your risk of
esophageal cancer as well as your risk of other serious health
problems, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke. Slow
and steady weight loss of 1 or 2 pounds a week is considered the
safest way to lose weight and keep it off. In many cases, you can
lose weight by committing to eating a healthier diet, exercising and
changing unhealthy behaviors. Other treatments for obesity include
prescription medications and surgery.
Poor appetite, difficulty swallowing, weight loss and weakness are often
problems for people with esophageal cancer. These symptoms may be
compounded by cancer treatments and by the need for a liquid diet or
intravenous feeding during the course of your treatment as well as by
the emotional toll of living with the disease.
When you're able to eat more normally, your doctor may recommend talking
to a registered dietitian. He or she can help you find ways to get the
nourishment you need. These suggestions also may help:
Try eating several
small meals throughout the day instead of two or three larger ones.
If you are nauseous or have trouble swallowing, choose foods that
are soothing and easy-to-swallow, such as soups, yogurt or
Talk to your
doctor about vitamin and mineral supplements. If you haven't been
eating as much as you normally would or if your diet is restricted,
you're likely deficient in a variety of nutrients.
snacks within easy reach. That way, you're more likely to eat. Fresh
fruit and yogurt are good choices.
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