Esophageal Cancer: Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 02/2023

ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about the estimated number of people who will be diagnosed with esophageal cancer each year. You will also read general information on surviving the disease. Remember, survival rates depend on several factors, and no 2 people with cancer are the same. Use the menu to see other pages.

Every person is different, with different factors influencing their risk of being diagnosed with this cancer and the chance of recovery after a diagnosis. It is important to talk with your doctor about any questions you have around the general statistics provided below and what they may mean for you individually. The original sources for these statistics are provided at the bottom of this page.

How many people are diagnosed with esophageal cancer?

In 2023, an estimated 21,560 adults (17,030 men and 4,530 women) in the United States will be diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Worldwide, an estimated 604,100 people were diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2020.

In the United States, the disease is most common in White people, who are more likely to be diagnosed with adenocarcinoma. Black people are more likely to be diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma. This diagnosis is less common in people of other races and ethnicities in the United States, including American Indians, Alaska Natives, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islander Americans. Esophageal cancer accounts for 1% of cancers diagnosed in the United States. The disease is more common in other parts of the world.

It is estimated that 16,120 deaths (12,920 men and 3,200 women) from this disease will occur in the United States in 2023. Esophageal cancer is the seventh most common cause of cancer death among men in the United States. In 2020, an estimated 544,076 people worldwide died from the disease. 

What is the survival rate for esophageal cancer?

There are different types of statistics that can help doctors evaluate a person’s chance of recovery from esophageal cancer. These are called survival statistics. A specific type of survival statistic is called the relative survival rate. It is often used to predict how having cancer may affect life expectancy. Relative survival rate looks at how likely people with esophageal cancer are to survive for a certain amount of time after their initial diagnosis or start of treatment compared to the expected survival of similar people without this cancer.

Example: Here is an example to help explain what a relative survival rate means. Please note this is only an example and not specific to this type of cancer. Let’s assume that the 5-year relative survival rate for a specific type of cancer is 90%. “Percent” means how many out of 100. Imagine there are 1,000 people without cancer, and based on their age and other characteristics, you expect 900 of the 1,000 to be alive in 5 years. Also imagine there are another 1,000 people similar in age and other characteristics as the first 1,000, but they all have the specific type of cancer that has a 5-year survival rate of 90%. This means it is expected that 810 of the people with the specific cancer (90% of 900) will be alive in 5 years.

It is important to remember that statistics on the survival rates for people with esophageal cancer are only an estimate. They cannot tell an individual person if cancer will or will not shorten their life. Instead, these statistics describe trends in groups of people previously diagnosed with the same disease, including specific stages of the disease.

The 5-year relative survival rate for esophageal cancer in the United States is 21%. Treatment for the disease has slowly improved the survival rate. In the 1960s and 1970s, the overall 5-year survival rate was around 5%.

The survival rates for esophageal cancer vary based on several factors. These include the stage of cancer, a person’s age and general health, and how well the treatment plan works.

The 5-year relative survival rate of people with cancer located only in the esophagus is 47%. The 5-year relative survival rate for those with disease that has spread to surrounding tissues or organs and/or the regional lymph nodes is 26%. If it has spread to distant parts of the body, the relative survival rate is 6%.

Experts measure relative survival rate statistics for esophageal cancer every 5 years. This means the estimate may not reflect the results of advancements in how esophageal cancer is diagnosed or treated from the last 5 years. Talk with your/ doctor if you have any questions about this information. Learn more about understanding statistics.

Statistics adapted from the American Cancer Society's (ACS) publication, Cancer Facts & Figures 2023; the ACS website; and the International Agency for Research on Cancer website. (All sources accessed February 2023.)

The next section in this guide is Medical Illustrations. It offers drawings of body parts often affected by esophageal cancer. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.