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Esophageal cancer

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From MayoClinic.com 


Although it's not possible to prevent all cases of esophageal cancer, the following lifestyle changes can greatly reduce your risk:

  • Quit smoking. 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 growth.

  • Limit alcohol consumption. 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 heartburn. 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 bed.

  • Eat a healthy diet. 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.

  • Maintain a healthy weight. 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 milkshakes.

  • 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.

  • Have nourishing snacks within easy reach. That way, you're more likely to eat. Fresh fruit and yogurt are good choices.


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