Objectives: Although symptoms of reflux are common, our knowledge of the epidemiology and natural history of gastroesophageal reflux disease is sparse. The risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma is increased among patients with acid reflux, but the contribution of Barrett's lesions is unknown.
Methods: With the aim to estimate the incidence of diagnosed endoscopic esophagitis lesions and the risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma among patients with previously diagnosed esophagitis, we extracted data on endoscopies, esophagitis diagnoses, and gastroesophageal cancer diagnoses from five population-based databases covering the period from 1974 to 2002, and covering all citizens in Funen County (population 470,000).
Results: In 2002, the incidence of esophagitis lesions was 2.4 per 1,000 person-years (95% confidence interval 2.3-2.6), 18.3 per 1,000 persons (17.9-18.7) had previously diagnosed esophagitis. Incidence increased by calendar year and age, was higher among males than among females, and was closely related to rate of endoscopy. Among 11,129 patients with previously diagnosed esophagitis, 15 had esophageal adenocarcinoma during 58,322 person-years of follow-up (26 per 100,000 person-years). The expected number was 2.79 and the standardized incidence ratio was 5.38 (3.01-8.87). Ten of the 15 patients with esophageal adenocarcinoma had previously diagnosed Barrett's esophagus.
Conclusion: The risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma is increased fivefold in patients with previously diagnosed esophagitis, but most of the adenocarcinomas occurred among patients with Barrett's esophagus.