Esophageal adenocarcinoma incidence in individuals with gastroesophageal reflux: synthesis and estimates from population studies

Am J Gastroenterol. 2011 Feb;106(2):254-60. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2010.470. Epub 2010 Dec 7.


Objectives: Recent advances in the management of Barrett's esophagus may kindle enthusiasm for screening for esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC). Symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are recognized as relative risks for EAC. However, the absolute incidence of EAC in specific populations with GERD is unknown. We aimed to estimate the symptom-, age-, and sex-specific incidences of EAC, and place these incidences in the perspective of other cancers for which screening is endorsed.

Methods: A Markov computer model utilizing published and publicly available data was created to estimate the age- and sex-specific incidences of EAC in American white non-Hispanics with GERD symptoms.

Results: The incidence of EAC in men younger than 50 years with GERD symptoms is very low (for instance, at the age of 35 years, incidence=1.0/100,000), and their incidence of colorectal cancer is relatively much higher (for instance, at the age of 35 years, incidence of colorectal cancer is 6.7-fold greater). The incidence of EAC in older men with weekly GERD symptoms is substantial (for instance, at the age of 70 years, incidence=60.8/100,000 person-years), but their incidence of colorectal cancer is at least threefold greater. The incidence of EAC in women with GERD is extremely low, and similar to that of breast cancer in men (for instance, 3.9/100,000 person-years at the age of 60 years).

Conclusions: Screening for EAC should not be performed in men younger than 50 years or in women because of very low incidences of cancer, regardless of the frequency of GERD symptoms. In white men with weekly GERD over the age of 60 years, the incidence of EAC is substantial, and might warrant screening if that practice is particularly accurate, safe, effective, and inexpensive.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / epidemiology*
  • Adenocarcinoma / etiology
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / etiology
  • Female
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / complications
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Markov Chains
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors