Squamous cell carcinoma develops within the epithelial cells making up the lining of the esophagus and can occur anywhere along its length but is classically in the upper and middle portions. It is typically associated with the use of tobacco and alcohol.
The proportion of esophageal cancer classified as adenocarcinoma has increased in recent decades. Esophageal adenocarcinoma develops in the glandular structures within the esophagus that secrete mucus. It is associated with GERD (Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease) and typically occurs in the lower portion of the esophagus or within a segment affected by Barrett’s Esophagus (a precancerous complication of chronic reflux).
Esophageal cancer is far more common in men than women. Historically it is most common in whites but is now almost equally as common in African Americans.