Background: Linxian, China, has one of the highest rates of esophageal cancer in the world. Other authors have described high prevalences of histologic esophagitis, atrophy, and dysplasia in Linxian and have suggested that these findings may represent precancerous lesions in this population. In 1987, a new endoscopic survey allowed the authors to make an independent study of esophageal histology in Linxian.
Methods: There were 1567 satisfactory squamous esophageal biopsies available from 754 patients. These biopsies were classified as normal, atrophy, acanthosis, esophagitis, squamous dysplasia, or squamous cancer.
Results: Classified by their worst diagnosis, 56.5% of the 754 patients had normal mucosa, 0.0% atrophy, 11.5% acanthosis, 4.6% esophagitis, 22.7% squamous dysplasia, and 4.6% squamous cancer.
Conclusions: The results show a different distribution of esophageal squamous diagnoses than has been reported previously from this population. The authors believe that the major reason for this discrepancy was differences in histologic criteria. In this survey, seemingly small differences in criteria could cause large differences in apparent disease prevalence; this was especially true for esophagitis. By the criteria used in this study, histologic esophagitis and atrophy are uncommon findings in Linxian, raising questions about their significance as precursor lesions of esophageal cancer in this population.