Objectives: In Barrett's esophagus (BE) normal squamous esophageal epithelium is replaced by specialized columnar epithelium (SCE). BE is related to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and is a risk factor for esophageal adenocarcinoma. SCE is detected also at normal-appearing esophagogastric junction without BE (junctional SCE). The relationships between junctional SCE, GERD, and cardia adenocarcinoma are obscure and controversial. The aims of the present study were to investigate the prevalence and demographics of junctional SCE and to compare these figures with those reported for BE, and esophageal and cardia adenocarcinoma. A further aim was to examine the association between junctional SCE and GERD, Helicobacter pylori infection, and gastritis.
Methods: One thousand one hundred-nineteen consecutive dyspeptic patients underwent gastroscopy and were enrolled into the study.
Results: Junctional SCE was detected in 110 patients (10%). The age-specific prevalence of junctional SCE increased with age. The male:female ratio was 1:1.1. In multivariate analysis, junctional SCE was independently and positively related to endoscopic erosive esophagitis (odds ratio [OR], 1.8; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.1-3.1), cardia inflammation (carditis) (OR, 3.1; 95% CI, 1.4-6.8), and age (OR, 1.4 per decade; 95% CI, 1.2-1.6), but not to corpus H. pylori infection (OR, 1.4; 95% CI, 0.7-2.8), antral (OR, 1.0; 95% CI, 0.5-2.1) or corpus (OR, 0.8; 95% CI, 0.4-1.8) gastritis, or intestinal metaplasia of the antral mucosa in stomach (OR, 1.2; 95% CI, 0.7-2.1). In univariate analysis, junctional SCE was, however, significantly more common in patients with antral-predominant atrophic gastritis (20%), compared with those with normal gastric histology (8%, p < 0.001).
Conclusions: Junctional SCE is age related and may therefore be an acquired lesion. It is associated with cardia inflammation and endoscopic erosive esophagitis, but not with H. pylori infection or gastric intestinal metaplasia. Unlike BE and cardia cancer, junctional SCE occurs with similar frequency in men and women.