Cancer Risk Associated with Barrett's Esophagus May Be Lower Than Believed

According to a recent long-term study, the risk of cancer linked to Barrett's esophagus may be lower than previously believed.

According to a recent long-term study, the risk of cancer linked to Barrett's esophagus may be lower than previously believed.

Barrett’s esophagus, a premalignant condition, has been thought to be linked to certain cancers such as esophageal adenocarcinoma. Individuals diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus are recommended to go through habitual endoscopies to screen for the esophageal cancer.

The study was conducted by researchers in Northern Ireland on 8,500 patients diagnosed with Barrett's esophagus.

The researchers followed the participants of the study for an average of seven years. During that time, seventy-nine of the patients were diagnosed with esophageal cancer; sixteen of the participants were diagnosed with cancer of the gastric cardia; and thirty-six participants developed high-grade dysplasia.

It was previously believed that the incidence rate for esophageal cancer was 3% per year, but in this study, the overall collective incidence rate for the three conditions in the study was 0.22% per year.

The researchers reported that that the results of the study indicate that the current recommendation for Barrett’s esophagus patients to be screened routinely for cancer may be unnecessary.

"It emphasizes the need to not only identify those with who have Barrett's esophagus but also to then identify those who will go on to possibly develop cancer, since most will not,” said Dr. Sharmila Anandasabapathy, an associate professor of medicine and gastroenterology, and medical director of endoscopy at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. “We can then create a more selective approach to the 1 to 2% of Americans who have Barrett's.”

It was determined, however, that individuals aged sixty to sixty-nine suffered a greater risk of developing cancer than patients under fifty or over the age of eighty. Further, the researchers discovered that men with Barrett’s were more likely to develop cancer than women.

"The study underscores the fact that white men over fifty are the 'bulls eye' high risk group for the development of esophageal cancer and should be screened annually," said Dr Jonathan E. Aviv, clinical director of the Voice and Swallowing Center at ENT and Allergy Associates in New York City.

The study was published online yesterday in the Journal of National Cancer Institute.