Oesophageal cancer : Causes

Anyone can get oesophageal cancer. It's not always clear what causes it.

You might be more likely to get it if you:

  • are over the age of 75, it's not very common in people under 45
  • are a man
  • have certain medical conditions, such as long-term, severe acid reflux or gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, or a condition called Barrett's oesophagus

Many oesophageal cancers are also linked to your lifestyle.


Barrett's oesophagus

Barrett's oesophagus is a medical condition where some of the cells in your oesophagus grow abnormally.

If you have Barrett's oesophagus you are slightly more likely to get oesophageal cancer. But this is not common. It is sometimes called a pre-cancerous condition.

Barrett’s oesophagus often does not have any symptoms. But you may have symptoms of indigestion and heartburn.

Find out more

Guts UK: Barrett's oesophagus

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You cannot always prevent oesophageal cancer. But making healthy changes can lower your chances of getting it.

Do

  • try to lose weight if you are overweight

  • let hot drinks cool down a bit before drinking, so they do not damage your oesophagus

  • try to cut down on alcohol – avoid drinking more than 14 units a week

  • try to quit smoking

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It's important to get any symptoms of oesophageal cancer checked by a GP.

Anyone can get oesophageal cancer, even if you do not think you have a higher chance of getting it.

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