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Achalasia May Raise Esophageal Cancer Risk

Esophageal cancer is one of the rarest forms of the disease with only about 16,900 new cases diagnosed in the United States annually. While acid reflux disease, smoking and other causes have long been linked to this condition, another disorder may also add to the number of cases witnessed each year. Research is showing that achalasia has a connection to increased risk.

Achalasia is a rather rare condition that impacts the esophageal sphincter. When this disorder is present, people experience a complete relaxation of this muscle. The result of this is somewhat similar to acid reflux, but often on a larger scale. Patients with achalasia are likely to regurgitate solid foods, aspirate stomach contents and suffer from heartburn, among other concerns.

One study followed patients who were diagnosed with achalasia over the course of nearly 10 years. Of the initial group of about 450 patients, roughly 3.3 percent developed esophageal cancer over the course of the study. When compared with their controls, those with achalasia had 28 times increased risk of developing esophageal cancer than their counterparts.

Although it is rather rare, esophageal cancer is a big concern for those who are at risk. This form of cancer claims an estimated 15,600 lives each year. The disease is considered difficult to treat in many cases because of its location. Some forms of the cancer tend to respond better to treatment than others, as well.

People who are at risk for esophageal cancer are urged to speak with their healthcare providers. It may be possible to lower some risks, such as smoking. Routine screening for people with achalasia is not currently conducted, but as the connection becomes more widely noted that may one day change. In the meantime, patients with this condition are urged to work closely with their doctors to address their symptoms.

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