Nav: Home

Esophageal cancer risk lower than expected for patients with GERD

December 09, 2010

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The risk of esophageal cancer among patients who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is not as high as many may think, according to new research from University of Michigan gastroenterologists.

GERD is considered a relative risk for developing esophageal adenocarcinoma, but the absolute risk is not known, says Joel Rubenstein, M.D., M.Sc., an investigator with the Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Clinical Management Research in Ann Arbor and Assistant Professor in the University of Michigan's Department of Internal Medicine.

"Since GERD is incredibly common, many people may be worried about their increased risk for developing cancer due to GERD. This study's results help put that risk into perspective and may help physicians decide when screening to prevent cancer is needed," says Rubenstein.

Rubenstein and his co-authors set out to estimate the incidence of new cases of esophageal adenocarcinoma in the large population of people with GERD symptoms.

The research published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology this week found:
  • Women with GERD likely have a low rate of esophageal adenocarcinoma, similar to the rate of breast cancer in men.
  • The rate of esophageal adenocarcinoma in white men who are 60 years old with weekly GERD is just one-third of their rate of colorectal cancer or 34.6 per 100,000 patients per year.
  • The rate of esophageal adenocarcinoma in younger white men with GERD is less than one-third of their incidence of colorectal cancer.
GERD is characterized by symptoms that result from repeated or prolonged exposure of the lining of the esophagus to acidic contents from the stomach and occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter does not seal off the esophagus from the stomach.

The two most frequently reported symptoms of GERD are heartburn and regurgitation, which is characterized by the effortless flow of fluid rising up the chest toward the mouth. Some estimates say up to 1 in 4 people in U.S. suffer from GERD.

Rubenstein concluded that screening for esophageal adenocarcinoma should not be performed in men younger than age 50 or in women because of the very low incidences of the cancer, regardless of the frequency of GERD symptoms. However, in white men with weekly GERD over the age of 60, the incidence of esophageal adenocarcinoma is substantial and may warrant screening.

"Our study does not say who should be screened or the effectiveness of the screening. But we can say that for a 60-year-old man with GERD, screening for colon cancer is more important than screening for esophageal adenocarcinoma," Rubenstein says.

"We hope this study can help physicians recognize the absolute risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma in patients with GERD within the context of the risk of more familiar cancers, and make it easier to communicate these risks to patients, guiding them in rational decisions about screening procedures."

He cautioned however, that if patients are experiencing alarm symptoms such as trouble swallowing, unintentional weight loss, or vomiting, they should seek medical care immediately, as these symptoms could be due to a cancer already present in the esophagus.
-end-
Additional authors: James M. Scheiman, M.D., University of Michigan Division of Gastroenterology; Shahram Sadeghi, and David Whiteman, Queensland Institute of Medical Research; John M. Inadomi, M.D., University of Washington.

Journal reference: American Journal of Gastroenterology, DOI 10.1038/ajg.2010.470

Funding: National Institutes of Health, National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia.

About the University of Michigan's Division of Gastroenterology: U-M has one of the largest gastroenterology practices in the country and is a leader in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and liver. Our 50-plus physicians are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of all diseases of the gastrointestinal system, from simple to complex, including those of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, rectum, liver, gallbladder, pancreas and biliary tract.

In addition to being leaders in the clinic, our faculty are also leaders in their respective areas of research, which span such varied interests as the role of peptides in the brain-gut interactions in functional bowel diseases to innovative treatments of viral hepatitis and liver cancer.

University of Michigan Health System

Related Cancer Articles:

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.
Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.
More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.
New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.
American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.
Oncotarget: Cancer pioneer employs physics to approach cancer in last research article
In the cover article of Tuesday's issue of Oncotarget, James Frost, MD, PhD, Kenneth Pienta, MD, and the late Donald Coffey, Ph.D., use a theory of physical and biophysical symmetry to derive a new conceptualization of cancer.
Health indicators for newborns of breast cancer survivors may vary by cancer type
In a study published in the International Journal of Cancer, researchers from the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center analyzed health indicators for children born to young breast cancer survivors in North Carolina.
Few women with history of breast cancer and ovarian cancer take a recommended genetic test
More than 80 percent of women living with a history of breast or ovarian cancer at high-risk of having a gene mutation have never taken the test that can detect it.
More Cancer News and Cancer Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Clint Smith
The killing of George Floyd by a police officer has sparked massive protests nationwide. This hour, writer and scholar Clint Smith reflects on this moment, through conversation, letters, and poetry.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Nina
Producer Tracie Hunte stumbled into a duet between Nina Simone and the sounds of protest outside her apartment. Then she discovered a performance by Nina on April 7, 1968 - three days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Tracie talks about what Nina's music, born during another time when our country was facing questions that seemed to have no answer, meant then and why it still resonates today.  Listen to Nina's brother, Samuel Waymon, talk about that April 7th concert here.