Oesophageal cancer (OC) is an aggressive neoplasm that manifests in the gastrointestinal tract and is the result of numerous factors that can contribute to the development of the disease. These may include old age, nutritional deficiencies, oesophageal obstruction and food ingestion difficulties. Environmental factors serve a large role in increasing the risk of developing OC. Two factors that serve an increasing risk of developing OC are the use of tobacco and the consumption of alcohol. Genetic factors also exhibit a large effect on the risk of developing OC, for example, the causative genes in Black Africans differ from other races. OC is 3‑4 times more common among men than women. OC has been previously reported in >450 000 individuals worldwide, and its incidence is increasing. The current review compares OC in low to middle‑income countries with developed countries. The incidence of OC, particularly squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is high in low and middle‑income countries. In developed countries, the incidence of SCC is low compared with adenocarcinoma. The majority of OC cases are diagnosed in the late stages of the disease, leading to high mortality rates. The current review aimed to discuss factors that contribute to the development of this disease in different geographical areas and genetic mechanisms governing these findings. The current review also aims to discuss the preventative treatment options for the disease, and also discusses the diagnosis and surveillance in five LMICs, including South Africa, China, Tanzania, India and Brazil.