What is the risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma in people with Barrett’s esophagus?

Esophageal andenocarcinoma is cancer occurring in the esophagus. Anything that affects your chance of getting this cancer is a risk factor of esophageal andenocarcinoma.

There are several factors that can affect your risk of this cancer. Some risk factors, like age are beyond your control while some, like smoking are. Some of the more common risk factors are listed ahead. However, it must be pointed out that having a risk factor of a disease, or having many risk factors, does not imply that you will get that particular disease. It just means that you have a high risk of that particular disease, nothing more.

Risk factors of the cancer of the esophagus

Age – The chances of getting this cancer increased with age. About 85% of the reported cases of this cancer last year were among people above 55 years.

Gender – Women are three times more likely to develop esophageal andenocarcinoma than men.

GERD – GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease. In this disease, the acid produced in stomach for aiding digestion frequently reflex upwards, irritating the inner lining of the esophagus.

Heartburn is the most common symptom of this disease. Some people diagnosed with GERD experience heartburn and other GERD symptoms more frequently than others. In GERD patients, the risk of esophageal andenocarcinoma increases with the frequency of occurrence of heartburn and other GERD symptoms. However, GERD is a very common disease and most people diagnosed with it do not go on to develop cancer of the esophagus or other complications.

Barrett’s esophagus – In GERD the acid backwash into the esophagus irritates the esophagial lining. If GERD is not controlled, over time it leads to damage of this inner lining. This, in turn, causes replacement of the squamous cells lining the esophagus with gland cells. The gland cells are similar in appearance to the cells lining the small intestine and stomach and are not so easily affected by the stomach acid. This changing of the cells in the esophagial lining is called Barrett’s esophagus.

Barrett’s disease further increases the risk of esophageal cancer. With that said, not many people having Barrett’s disease go on to develop the cancer. It is estimated that only 1% of Barrett’s esophagus patients develop esophageal andenocarcinoma.

Some other risk factors

Other risk factors of this cancer include obesity, tobacco and alcohol consumption, and certain diets. Other causes of esophageal andenocarcinoma also exist, but they are not as common as the ones discussed here.

While the role of diet has not been proven, there are suggestions that a diet rich in processed meat increases the risk of esophageal cancer. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, is believed to reduce the risk of esophageal andenocarcinoma.

Survival rates for cancer of the esophagus

Esophageal cancer is of two types: adenocarcinoma of the esophagus and squamous cell cancer. Patients suffering from adenocarcinoma of the esophagus have a slightly better prognosis than people with squamous cell cancer.

According to the data available, people with localized esophageal cancer (includes mainly AJCC stage I tumors) have 5-year survival rate of 39%. People with cancer in regional stage have 21% 5-year survival rate, while the figure for patients with cancer in distant stage is 4%.

The treatment of esophageal cancer may vary from case to case and mainly depends on how far the cancer has developed, patient’s age, and patient’s medical history.