Oesophageal cancer is a malignant tumour that arises in the lining of the cells of the oesophagus also known as food pipe, the tube which is responsible for carrying food from the throat to the stomach.
It is a serious condition and is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in India. According to the National Cancer Registry Programme (NCRP) of India, oesophageal cancer is the fourth most common cancer among men and the eighth most common cancer among women in India.
This type of cancer is often diagnosed at a later stage, which makes treatment more difficult. There are several risk factors associated with oesophageal cancer, including certain daily habits that increase the risk of developing this type of cancer.
Five daily habits that increase risk of oesophageal cancer
Smoking is one of the leading causes of cancer, and it also increases the risk of oesophageal cancer. Smoking tobacco can cause changes in the cells that line the oesophagus, which can lead to the development of cancerous cells. The risk of oesophageal cancer is higher for heavy smokers, and quitting smoking can reduce the risk of developing this type of cancer.
2. Alcohol Consumption
Excessive consumption of alcohol is another habit that increases the risk of oesophageal cancer. Alcohol can cause irritation and inflammation of the oesophagus, and further damaged the cells lining the oesophagus which can lead to the development of cancerous cells. The risk of oesophageal cancer is higher for individuals who consume more than three alcoholic drinks per day.
3. Poor Diet
A diet that is high in processed foods, red meat, and saturated fats can increase the risk of oesophageal cancer. A diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can reduce the risk of developing oesophageal cancer. This is because fruits and vegetables contain essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help protect cells from getting damaged further preventing the development of cancer.
Obesity is a major risk factor for many types of cancer, including oesophageal cancer.
Excess body weight increases the risk of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and Barrett’s oesophagus, both of which are risk factors for the development of oesophageal cancer. Additionally, obesity can cause chronic inflammation and insulin resistance, which are also linked to an increased risk of cancer. Therefore, maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can reduce the risk of developing any type of health condition.
5. Acid Reflux
Acid reflux, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition that occurs when stomach acid repeatedly flows back into the oesophagus. Chronic acid reflux can cause irritation and inflammation of the oesophagus, which can lead to the development of cancerous cells. Individuals who experience chronic acid reflux should seek medical attention to reduce the risk of developing oesophageal cancer.
Oesophageal cancer is a deadly disease with a high mortality rate and a significant prevalence in India. Although various risk factors contribute to its development, certain daily habits increase an individual’s susceptibility to this disease. However, adopting a healthier lifestyle, such as quitting smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, eating a balanced diet, managing acid reflux, and maintaining a healthy weight, can lower the risk of developing oesophageal cancer and enhance overall health and well-being. Making small but significant changes in daily habits can go a long way in reducing the risk of developing this deadly disease.
About the author: Dr. Azhar Perwaiz, Associate Director, GI Surgery, GI Oncology and Bariatric Surgery at the Institute of Digestive and Hepatobiliary Sciences, Medanta, Gurugram. All views/opinions expressed in the article are of the author.