Esophageal Cancer Facts

  • The incidence of adenocarcinoma of the esophagus, one of two common forms of esophageal cancer, has risen by more than 300 percent in the United States over the last two decades – faster than any other cancer. The most dramatic increases are being seen in white men.

  • A formally rare cancer, esophageal carcinoma now ranks in the top 15 of all cancers occurring in white males in the U.S.

  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus, formerly the more common type of esophageal cancer, is decreasing in the United States, yet black men develop this cancer at six times the rate of white men.

  • A high percentage of patients with adenocarcinoma of the esophagus first had Barrett’s esophagus, also called columnar metaplasia. This condition is a change in the cells of the lower esophagus, often due to irritation caused from gastric reflux (a flushing of stomach acid up into the lower esophagus).

  • Patients with Barrett’s esophagus have a 30-40 percent increased risk of developing adenocarcinoma of the esophagus compared to the general population.

  • Cancer of the esophagus is often found too late (locally unresectable) for patients to benefit from surgery. The cancer also may have spread, or metastasized, to distant sites in the body.

  • Many advances in diagnosing and treating esophageal cancer have taken place over the last decade.

  • Virginia Mason, in Seattle, is among the premier medical centers in the nation treating this disease.