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About oesophageal cancer

Oesophageal cancer is a cancer of the food pipe. Find out more about where it starts in the food pipe and how common it is.


The foodpipe is also called the oesophagus or gullet.

The food pipe

The oesophagus is part of the digestive system. It is the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach.

The food pipe

Where it starts

Cancer can develop in any part of the oesophagus.


Cancers in the upper part and middle part tend to be squamous cell carcinomas. These develop from cells that make up the inner lining of your oesophagus.

Cancers in the lower part of the oesophagus tend to be a type called adenocarcinoma. These cancers start in gland cells.

The lower end of the oesophagus joins the stomach. This area is the gastro oesophageal junction. Cancers that start here are gastro oesophageal junction cancers.

How common it is

In 2015, around 9,200 people were diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in the UK. It’s the 13th most common cancer in adults.

Who gets it

Oesophageal cancer is more common in men than women.

It's more common in older people. In the UK, on average each year around 40 out of 100 (around 40%) of new cases are in people aged 75 and over. It's very rare in people younger than 40. 

Last reviewed: 
05 May 2016
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    VT de Vita, S Hellman and SA Rosenberg
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  • Anatomy and Physiology in Health and Illness (11th edition)
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Information and help

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