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A risk factor increases your chances of developing cancer. Modifying the following risk factors may help reduce your risk of esophageal cancer.

Drink Alcohol in Moderation

The single most important way to reduce your risk of esophageal cancer is to reduce alcohol intake to no more than two drinks a day. Alcohol intake increases your risk by 10-25 times, depending upon the strength of the drink. Combined with smoking, the risks are multiplied.

Don’t Smoke

Moderate smoking, by itself, does not greatly increase the risk of this particular disease, but it does promote many other diseases including several other cancers. Heavy smoking, particularly of black tobacco, a term of interest primarily to pipe smokers, at least doubles your risk.

Talk to your doctor about how you can quit smoking .

Eat a Balanced, Healthful Diet

There is evidence to support eating a healthful diet to reduce your risk of esophageal cancer. This includes eating more fruits and vegetables , and foods high in dietary fiber, and less dairy, processed foods, and red meat.

Get Regular Exercise

Regular physical activity has many benefits. It reduces the risk of heart disease and helps with overall well-being. Several studies have linked exercise with a decreased risk of esophageal cancer. Aim for at least 30 minutes of regular exercise on most days of the week. Increased amounts of physical activity is associated with bigger reductions in risk.

Avoid Ingesting Irritants

Some esophageal irritants have been identified. Avoid intake of these substances to help decrease your risk:

  • Very hot beverages
  • Toxins in pickled vegetables
Avoid Environmental Irritants

The two main environmental irritants are radiation and smoked opiates.

There is not much you can do about the radiation you have received already from cancer treatment or industrial exposure, but the more you have already been exposed to, the greater should be your caution in the future. Radiation damage is cumulative over your lifetime.

Don’t smoke opium. If you do, talk with your doctor about quitting.

Get Proper Care for Other Conditions

Make sure that you get treatment for any conditions that you have, such as:

  • Acid reflux disease—Don’t neglect frequent heartburn . This condition can be treated effectively. Make sure that you talk to your doctor.
  • Obesity—Increased weight increases acid reflux problems, which increases the risk of cancer. If you need to lose weight, talk with your doctor or consult with a dietitian.
  • Achalasia—If you have achalasia , a disorder of the smooth muscles in the esophagus, talk with your doctor about how best to treat it.
  • Nutritional deficiencies—These deficiencies are quite rare in developed countries. You may be able to take a vitamin or mineral supplement to resolve the problem. Consult with your doctor before taking any vitamins or supplements.
Talk to Your Doctor About the Benefits of Aspirin

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 deciding to start aspirin therapy.


Esophageal cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated June 2, 2013. Accessed August 5, 2013.

Esophageal cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: Accessed August 5, 2013.

Esophagus cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at Accessed August 5, 2013.

6/17/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Liu X, Wang X, et al. 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's Systematic Literature Surveillance Chen Y, Yu C, et al. Physical activity and risks of esophageal and gastric cancers: A meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2014;9(2):e88082.

Last reviewed May 2015 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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