People with Barrett's esophagus, a complication of acid reflux disease, have a higher risk of developing esophageal cancer. But the risk is far smaller than believed, a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine has found.
Researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark reviewed data gathered over nearly 20 years on more than 11,000 people with Barrett's esophagus. The analysis found that every year, 0.12 percent of the patients with Barrett's esophagus go on to develop cancer of the esophagus, a disease that is particularly lethal.
The figure was much lower than the estimate of 0.5 percent obtained from earlier studies. And the new study comes on the heels of a similar report published this year in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute, which looked at a large population in Ireland. That study found the risk of esophageal cancer in people with Barrett's was 0.13 percent.
According to current guidelines, people with Barrett's esophagus should consider undergoing an endoscopy and biopsy of the esophageal lining every three years. But the new research suggests that patients may not need as many screening procedures.
Dr. Peter Funch-Jensen, a professor of surgery at Aarhus and an author of the study, said he believed endoscopies might be unnecessary after the first year except in cases where doctors find precancerous cells, or when new symptoms occur.
This is a more complete version of the story than the one that appeared in print.