Mechanisms of disease: Carcinogenesis in Barrett's esophagus

Nat Clin Pract Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2004 Dec;1(2):106-12. doi: 10.1038/ncpgasthep0057.


The pathogenesis of cancer in Barrett's esophagus is multifactorial. Gastroesophageal reflux seems to be important in the initiation of Barrett's esophagus, but its role in promoting carcinogenesis has yet to be established. Diet, lifestyle and carcinogens, especially the nitrates, may be important in the development of carcinogenesis, and require further investigation. Inhibition of reflux-stimulated inflammatory changes, for example by inhibiting cyclooxygenase, holds promise for decreasing cancer progression. Similarly, dietary and lifestyle modification used in the management of reflux may also help to prevent the development of esophageal cancer. The molecular changes that are associated with the development of cancer in Barrett's esophagus offer several potential areas of intervention to prevent and manage esophageal cancer. Limiting cell growth, increasing apoptosis of damaged cells, limiting cell invasion and angiogenesis factors could be useful to accomplish this goal. Having a greater understanding of the pathogenesis of this condition can only help to develop more management options in the future.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Barrett Esophagus / blood
  • Barrett Esophagus / etiology*
  • Barrett Esophagus / physiopathology*
  • Gastrins / blood
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / complications*
  • Helicobacter Infections / complications*
  • Helicobacter pylori*
  • Humans


  • Gastrins