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Cancer in the esophagus

This cancer form has changed character in the last 20 years. Previously, cancer in the esophagus was primarily squamous cell carcinoma. Today adenocarcinomas constitute approximately 50% of all esophageal cancer. 

The esophagus stretches from the pharynx in the throat down through the thoracic cavity to the stomach and functions as a transport organ for food. 

The length from the throat is about 15 cm from the teeth while the length to the stomach is about 45 cm from the teeth. The entire esophagus is covered with multiple layers of non-keratinizing squamous cells.

There are national guidelines (1) for diagnosing and treating esophageal cancer. This cancer type is rare and treatment is relatively complicated. In Norway, there is consensus that treatment should be centralized.


Compared to other cancers, esophageal cancer is relatively rare. Approximately 0.5% of men and women will be diagnosed with esophageal cancer at some point during their lifetime. Esophageal cancer is most frequently diagnosed among people aged 65-74, and is more common in men than women. In 2017, it is estimated to be 16,940 new cases of esophageal cancer in the United States (23).


Age-specific incidence of esophageal cancer, 2009–2013.

Source: Cancer Registry of Norway



Incidence of esophageal cancer, 1954–2013.

Source: Cancer Registry of Norway


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