Esophagus Cancer Overview

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Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention TOPICS

Can cancer of the esophagus be prevented?

Not all cases of esophageal cancer can be prevented, but the risk of getting this disease can be greatly reduced by not using tobacco and alcohol. Diet is also important. Eating many fruits and vegetables may offer some protection. Staying active and keeping a healthy weight may also help.

Some studies have found that the risk can be lowered in people who take aspirin or other drugs such as ibuprofen (NSAIDs) that reduce inflammation. But using these drugs every day can lead to problems like kidney damage and bleeding in the stomach. For this reason, most doctors do not advise the use of NSAIDs to prevent cancer. If you are thinking of using one of these regularly, you first should talk to your doctor about the pros and cons.

Some studies have also found a lower risk of esophageal cancer in patients with Barrett’s esophagus who take a type of drug called statins. Statins are used to treat high cholesterol. These are drugs like atorvastatin (Lipitor®) and rosuvastatin (Crestor®). While taking one of these drugs to lower cholesterol may also help some patients lower esophageal cancer risk, doctors don’t advise taking them to prevent cancer. These drugs can have serious side effects.

Doctors recommend that people with Barrett’s esophagus have certain tests done to look for cell changes that may be a sign of cancer. Treating reflux may help to prevent Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer. If you have chronic heartburn (or reflux), you should talk to your health care team about it. Treatment with drugs or even surgery can improve symptoms and may prevent future problems.

Last Medical Review: 12/26/2012
Last Revised: 12/26/2012