Welcome to ESOCAN – an educational resource dedicated to the prevention and control of esophageal cancer. It is currently at an early stage of development and will be undergoing changes and expansion.

The esophagus (blue in figure) is a muscular tube that carries food from the back of the mouth (pharynx – green) to the stomach (red). Cancers that occur in this organ are often difficult to treat, in part because “alarm symptoms” such as difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) or bleeding often do not appear until the cancer is at a late stage. Unfortunately, only about half of persons with esophageal cancer survive more than a year after diagnosis. Therefore, preventing the cancer and detecting it at an early stage remain the most effective options for reducing mortality from the disease.

Two histologic types of cancer typically occur in the esophagus. It is normally lined by squamous cells, which can give rise to a type of cancer – esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) – occurring anywhere in the esophagus. Sometimes the squamous cell lining can be transformed into columnar cells which are similar to the lining of the small intestine, in a process termed metaplasia. This usually occurs under conditions of chronic gastroesophageal reflux (e.g., heartburn or acid regurgitation) and the resulting condition is termed Barrett’s esophagus. A second type of cancer – esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) – typically arises in Barrett’s epithelium and usually develops within the lower one-third of the esophagus or at the junction with the stomach (gastroesophageal junction.) For the time being, this resource will focus on EAC, which is the most common type of esophageal cancer in the U.S. As resources permit, it will be expanded to include ESCC, which is the most common type worldwide.

Additional information is available through the menu options:

  • Background describes the basic epidemiology of esophageal cancer
  • Risk factors summarizes what is known about possible causes of EAC and opportunities for prevention
  • What’s your risk? introduces the IC-RISC™risk calculator which estimates an individual’s risk of developing EAC
  • What’s new? highlights new findings regarding the prevention and control of EAC
  • About includes contact, disclaimer and privacy information
  • Additional resources provides links to consortia studying EAC and BE, and other resources regarding esophageal cancer