Esophageal Cancer: Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 01/2020

ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about the number of people who are diagnosed with esophageal cancer each year. You will also read general information on surviving the disease. Remember, survival rates depend on several factors. Use the menu to see other pages.

This year, an estimated 18,440 adults (14,350 men and 4,090 women) in the United States will be diagnosed with esophageal cancer.

The disease is just slightly more common in white people than African-American people. White people are more likely to be diagnosed with adenocarcinoma, while black people are more likely to be diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma. 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 16,170 deaths (13,100 men and 3,070 women) from this disease will occur this year. Esophageal cancer is the seventh most common cause of cancer death among men.

The 5-year survival rate tells you what percent of people live at least 5 years after the cancer is found. Percent means how many out of 100. The 5-year survival rate for people with esophageal cancer is 20%. Treatment for the disease has slowly improved. In the 1960s and 1970s, the 5-year survival rate was only 5%.

However, survival rates depend on several factors, including the stage of the cancer when it is first diagnosed. The 5-year survival rate of people with cancer located only in the esophagus is 47%. The 5-year survival rate for those with disease that has spread to surrounding tissues or organs and/or the regional lymph nodes is 25%. If it has spread to distant parts of the body, the survival rate is 5%.

It is important to remember that statistics on the survival rates for people with esophageal cancer are an estimate. The estimate comes from annual data based on the number of people with this cancer in the United States. Also, experts measure the survival statistics every 5 years. So the estimate may not show the results of better diagnosis or treatment available for less than 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 2020, and the ACS website (January 2020).

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.