April Esophageal Cancer Awareness Video Slideshow- The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation
The Role of Gender in Esophageal Cancer Risk
Lifestyle differences between men and woman may make a difference in their levels of risks for esophageal cancer.
By Diana Rodriguez
Medically Reviewed by Niya Jones, MD, MPH
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Esophageal cancer causes the same symptoms and progresses in the same way in both men and women. But men are at significantly higher risk of developing esophageal cancer: Of the 16,470 people in the United States estimated to have been diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2008, only 3,500 were women. So why are men at such an increased risk of developing esophageal cancer?
Risk Factors for Esophageal Cancer
There are a number of risk factors for esophageal cancer, and your gender may play a role in how likely you are to have one or more of these risk factors. These include:
- Excessive alcohol use.Drinking too much alcohol over a long period significantly increases the risk of esophageal cancer. Men are much more likely than women to drink alcohol. They are also more likely to drink heavily, and for longer periods of time. Of the 15.1 million Americans who abuse or drink excessive amounts of alcohol, 10.5 million, or nearly two-thirds of all Americans with a drinking problem, are men.
- Smoking and other tobacco product use.Smoking cigarettes, pipes, and cigars, and using smokeless tobacco are major risk factors for developing esophageal cancer, since a number of esophageal cancer cases have been linked to tobacco use. Men are also much more likely than women to use tobacco products. There are about 25.9 million people in the United States who smoke — and only 20.7 percent of these smokers are women. Men also use smokeless or chewing tobacco far more regularly; only 0.4 percent of women use smokeless tobacco, as compared with 6 percent of men.
- Heartburn and reflux.Having persistent heartburn, or gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), can be a significant risk factor for esophageal cancer, since it can lead to a precancerous condition known as Barrett's esophagus. Men are more than twice as likely as women to develop Barrett's esophagus.
- Not eating fruits and vegetables.People who do not eat enough fruits and vegetables are at a greater risk of developing esophageal cancer.
- Being overweight or obese.Excess weight can increase the likelihood of developing esophageal cancer.
Lifestyle Differences Between Men and Women
By examining the risk factors for esophageal cancer alongside statistics about lifestyle differences between women and men, it's easy to see why men are three to four times more likely to develop esophageal cancer. Since men are more likely to use tobacco, drink excess alcohol, and develop Barrett's esophagus, they are at higher risk of esophageal cancer.
Whether you're male or female, it is important to live the healthiest lifestyle possible. That means avoiding tobacco products, drinking alcohol in moderation, and maintaining a healthy body weight with a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. And if you have GERD or Barrett's esophagus, make sure it is well controlled and monitored closely by your doctor. Avoiding known risk factors such as tobacco, heavy alcohol use, obesity, and poor diet can help both women and men to reduce their risk of esophageal cancer.
Video: April Esophageal Cancer Awareness Video Slideshow- The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation
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