Information about GERD Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment options, and GERD Medication
For information on Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) visit:



Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)


Adenocarcinoma of the Esophagus (EPIDEMIOLOGY)

The incidence of adenocarcinoma of the esophagus has increased 300% to 500% in the western world during the last 30 to 40 years. In 2002, approximately half of 13100 anticipated esophageal cancers are expected to be adenocarcinoma. The national cancer institute has reported a 5-year survival of only 11% for this cancer.

Studies show a dose response relationship between frequency of reflux symptoms and risk of adenocarcinoma (Lagergren J, Bergstrom R, Lindgren A, Nyren O. Symptomatic gastroesophageal reflux as a risk factor for esophageal adenocarcinoma. N Engl J Med. 1999; 340:825-31). In Lagergren study persons with long-standing (more than 20 years), severe (daily and nocturnal) reflux had an odds ratio of 43.5 for esophageal adenocarcinoma. They have also shown an association between this disease and obesity. The same group demonstrated associations between medications that relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and results in more reflux and increased incidence of this carcinoma. Lagergren group calculated that 15490 men of any age and 5570 men older than 60 years of age would need to use the medications that relax LES more than 5 years for one person to develop esophageal adenocarcinoma. With such a low incidence medical practice will probably not be affected since the potential benefits of these medications will out-weight their risk.

Although these studies report eye-catching results for relative risk, it is the absolute risk that more accurately describes any individual’s risk of getting cancer. Therefore, the annual cancer incidence rate for reflux patient older than 50 years is 6500 cases for every 10-million reflux patient at risk, or 0.00065 cases per patient annually. Another problem in Lagergren study was that 40% of individual with adenocarcinoma did not have at least weekly heartburn. Translating to the more than 10 million patients with weekly reflux would have only 3900 of the 6500 annual cases of esophageal adenocarcinoma, a risk of only 0.00039 cases per reflux patient annually.

In Barrett esophagus the relative risk of cancer is 40-125 times higher than general population. The absolute risk of any given patient with Barrett esophagus developing cancer in a year is approximately 1 in 200.

Aggressive evaluation and therapy in persons with GERD is indicated to alleviate symptoms, improve quality of life and decrease risk for cancer. Patients with long standing severe heartburn, those with reflux who develop the alarm symptoms of difficulty with swallowing, painful swallowing, frequent vomiting, unexplained weight loss, poor appetite and blood loss anemia should consult their physician ASAP. Patients with known Barrett esophagus need to see and follow the advise of their gastroenterologist for periodic surveillance, particularly if white male and more than 40 years of age.






         This is an educational site created by M. Farivar, M.D. The information provided is the author's opinion based on years of clinical experience and research.  You are advised to consult your own physician about the applicability of this information to your particular needs.  Also, keep in mind that symptom response to therapy does not preclude the presence of more serious conditions. 

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