What is esophageal cancer?
The esophagus is a more or less straight tube formed by several concentric layers that connect the mouth with the stomach. Esophageal cancer occurs when cells in the innermost layer of the wall (mucosa) multiply uncontrollably. At first these cells, when multiplied, form a lump that affects the mucosa, but soon invade or infiltrate the outer layers of the wall of the esophagus. Cancer can then invade neighboring organs (lung, heart, aorta, …) and produce metastases, both in the lymph nodes and through the blood in other organs.
Two types of cancers in the esophagus are mainly known. Squamous or epidermoid carcinoma, which is by far the most frequent (90%), and adenocarcinoma of the esophagus, which usually appears on a lesion known as Barrett’s esophagus and affects the lower third of the esophagus.
How does esophageal cancer occur?
As in all cancers, the ultimate cause is an alteration of the genes of a cell; So that their multiplication is uncontrollable. These genes are going to be altered by the action of substances called carcinogens.
The incidence (number of cases in a given population in a year) varies greatly from one country to another, being very frequent in China, Iran, southern Russia and Normandy (France). In the rest of Europe, including Spain, the incidence is relatively low, with around 3-4 cases per 100,000 inhabitants per year. In addition, esophageal cancer affects 1.5-3 men for each woman and usually appears from the 60s.
Consumption of tobacco, both smoked and chewed, alcohol intake, smoked or salty foods and overly hot beverages are the dietary factors most associated with esophageal cancer.