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What is cancer of the esophagus?

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Quick Answer

Esophageal cancer affects the hollow, long tube leading from the throat down to the stomach, according to Mayo Clinic. The esophagus carries food that is swallowed down to the stomach for digesting. Esophageal cancer occurs all along the tube, but it generally involves the lower part in U.S. patients.

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Esophageal cancer most frequently starts in the cells lining the interior of the esophagus. One theory connects chronic irritation of the esophagus tissues with the mutation of DNA that cause the growth of cancer cells. Some of the lifestyle factors that irritate cells in this lining, boosting the danger of cancer, include drinking alcohol or very hot drinks, consuming insufficient amounts of fruits and vegetables, suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease and having a hard time swallowing, notes Mayo Clinic.

DNA is the basic chemical within each of the cells constructing human genes, which means they contain the instructions for cell function. DNA influences many things besides physical appearance, including such traits as the process of cell growth. Genes that hinder cell division or cause cells to die at the appropriate time are known as tumor suppressor genes, while those responsible for cell growth and division are called oncogenes. According to the American Cancer Society, cancers can stem from DNA mutations that deactivate tumor suppressor genes or activate oncogenes .

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