Esophageal carcinoma (EC) is a tumor arising in the epithelial cells lining the esophagus and can be divided into two subtypes: esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) and esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) (see these terms).
The estimated annual incidence of EC in Europe is approximately 1/13,300.
The disease usually presents between the ages of 50-70 years. It is often asymptomatic until it has reached an advanced disease stage with the first symptoms usually being difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia), especially present when swallowing dry foods. Unintentional weight loss is also common. Manifestations of back or chest pain, hoarseness of voice, unexplained coughing, protracted hiccups, and severe reflux may be presenting or associated symptoms. More rarely, neck swelling from adenopathies may be the initial manifestation.
The etiology is unknown but many risk factors for esophageal cancer have been identified. Alcohol abuse, smoking, lye ingestion, radiation therapy and achalasia are associated with ESCC. EAC is associated with Barrett's esophagus (see this term), which is intestinal metaplasia (replacement of normal esophageal epithelia by intestinal epithelia), associated with chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease. EAC has also been associated with obesity, in particular visceral obesity and metabolic syndromes which are more common in men than in women.
Last update: January 2013
- Dr Claire DONOHOE
- Dr John REYNOLDS