Lead author of the study, Rune Erichsen, MD, claims, "Our research shows that damage to the esophageal lining that can be seen with endoscopy is important in the progression from normal cells to cancer, and Barrett's esophagus is likely to be an intermediate step.”
In the prior three decades, the number of esophageal cancer cases has risen dramatically in both the U.S. and Europe. There are estimates that nearly 10,000 new cases will be diagnosed each year in the U.S. Additionally, the risk of mortality associated with the disease is still significant.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD is widely known to be a key risk factor for esophgageal cancer. However, the specific role of inflammation in the lining of the esophagus from GERD is much less clear.
Erichsen adds, "Although re%uFB02ux patients with a history of inflammation, irritation or swelling of the esophagus are at increased risk for esophageal cancer, the absolute risk of cancer even in these patients is very low.”
For the study, researchers used data from population-based Danish medical registries of nearly 34,000 patients with reflux disease. They discovered that over 26,000 of the patients (77 percent) had erosive reflux disease and 37 subsequently developed esophageal cancer after an average follow-up period of 7.4 years.
It was found that the incidence of cancer among patients with erosive reflux disease was substantially greater than that expected for the general population. However, of the 7,600 patients with nonerosive reflux disease, only one was diagnosed with esophageal cancer after four and a half years of follow-up care.