Oesophageal cancer is the seventh most commonly occurring cancer in men and the 13th most commonly occurring cancer in women. There were over 500,000 new cases in 2018. The top 20 countries with the highest rates of oesophageal cancer in 2018 are given in the tables below.

Oesophageal cancer is classified into two main types: squamous cell carcinoma, which occurs in the upper part of the oesophagus, and adenocarcinoma, which develops at the junction of the oesophagus and stomach. Globally, squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type and accounts for the vast majority of cases; however, the proportion of adenocarcinomas is increasing dramatically in affluent nations.

The Continuous Update Project Panel judged there is strong evidence that greater body fatness increases the risk of adenocarcinoma of the oesophagus. There is some evidence that consuming vegetables might decrease the risk of oesophageal adenocarcinoma.

The Panel judged there is strong evidence that consuming alcoholic drinks and regularly consuming mate (as drunk in the traditional style in South America) increase the risk of oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma.

There is some evidence that consuming vegetables and fruit might decrease the risk of oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma and consuming processed meat might increase the risk.

There is some evidence that being physically active might decrease the risk of oesophageal cancer (all types). Read about all the evidence in our Third Expert Report.

Age-standardised rates are used in the tables. This is a summary measure of the rate of disease that a population would have if it had a standard age structure. Standardisation is necessary when comparing populations that differ with respect to age because age has a powerful influence on the risk of dying from cancer.

Oesophageal cancer rates: both sexes

Malawi had the highest rate of oesophageal cancer in 2018, followed by Mongolia.

Rank Country Age-standardised rate per 100,000
1 Malawi 18.7
2 Mongolia 18.5
3 Kenya 18.4
4 Bangladesh 14.8
5 China 13.9
6 Zimbabwe 12.4
7 Tajikistan 11.1
8 Uganda 10.8
9 Cape Verde 10.4
10 Burundi 10.2
11 Turkmenistan 9.2
12 Tanzania 8.9
13 Afghanistan 8.2
14 Kazakhstan 8.1
15= Comoros 7.9
15= Madagascar 7.9
17 South Africa 7.8
18 South Sudan 7.6
19 Somalia 7.5
20 Botswana 6.9

Oesophageal cancer rates in men

Malawi had the highest rate of oesophageal cancer in men in 2018, followed by Mongolia.

Rank Country Age-standardised rate per 100,000
1 Malawi 22.1
2 Mongolia 22.0
3 Kenya 21.5
4 Cape Verde 20.1
5 China 19.7
6 Bangladesh 18.7
7 Uganda 17.9
8 Burundi 14.8
9 Tajikistan 13.2
10 Zimbabwe 13.0
11 Botswana 11.8
12= Kazakhstan 11.4
12= South Africa 11.4
12= Tanzania 11.4
15 Turkmenistan 11.2
16 Myanmar 10.8
17 Netherlands 10.7
18 UK 10.1
19 Afghanistan 9.7
20 Cuba 9.5

Oesophageal cancer rates in women

Malawi had the highest rate of oesophageal cancer in women in 2018, followed by Mongolia.

Rank Country Age-standardised rate per 100,000
1 Malawi 16.2
2 Mongolia 16.0
3 Kenya 15.8
4 Zimbabwe 12.1
5 Bangladesh 10.7
6 Tajikistan 9.2
7 China 8.2
8 Turkmenistan 7.7
9 Somalia 7.3
10 Comoros 7.1
11= Afghanistan 6.8
11= Mozambique 6.8
11= Yemen 6.8
14= Madagascar 6.7
14= Tanzania 6.7
16= Bhutan 6.1
16= South Sudan 6.1
18 Burundi 6.0
19 Kazakhstan 5.9
20 South Africa 5.4