Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer starts at the inside lining of the esophagus and spreads outward through the other layers as it grows. The two most common forms of esophageal cancer are named for the type of cells that become malignant:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma: Cancer that forms in squamous cells, the thin, flat cells lining the esophagus. This cancer is most often found in the upper and middle part of the esophagus, but can occur anywhere along the esophagus. This is also called epidermoid carcinoma.
  • Adenocarcinoma: Cancer that begins in glandular (secretory) cells. Glandular cells in the lining of the esophagus produce and release fluids such as mucus. Adenocarcinomas usually form in the lower part of the esophagus, near the stomach.

The National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program estimates that some 18,440 people in the United States will be diagnosed with esophageal cancer and 16,170 will die of the disease in 2020. The average five-year survival rate is just 19.9 percent.

Smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, and Barrett esophagus can increase the risk of developing esophageal cancer. Other risk factors include older age, being male, and being African-American.

Esophageal Cancer Prevention (PDQ®) Esophageal Cancer Screening (PDQ®) Esophageal Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)

Source: National Cancer Institute