Esophageal Cancer: Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 02/2022

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 20,640 adults (16,510 men and 4,130 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. Esophageal cancer accounts for 1% of cancers diagnosed in the United States. Over the past 10 years, incidence rates have been dropping slightly. The disease is more common in other parts of the world.

It is estimated that 16,410 deaths (13,250 men and 3,160 women) from this disease will occur in the United States this year. 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. 

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 overall 5-year survival rate for people with esophageal cancer is 20%. Treatment for the disease has slowly improved the survival rate. In the 1960s and 1970s, the overall 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 46%. The 5-year 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 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. 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 2022; the ACS website; and the International Agency for Research on Cancer website. (All sources accessed January 2022.)

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.