Barrett's and Cancer

Cancer occurs when the abnormal cells involved in Barrett's esophagus have rapid and uncontrolled growth and invade the deeper layers of your esophagus. This is called cancer of the esophagus, or esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC). The cancer can also spread beyond the esophagus.

Patients with the first phase of Barrett’s esophagus (intestinal metaplasia) have a combined risk of 1.4% per year of progressing to high-grade dysplasia or cancer (“dysplasia” refers to abnormalities of a tissue or cell that make it more cancer-like and disorganized). While rare, cancer of the esophagus is the most rapidly rising cancer in the U.S. 2, 3 It is often incurable because it is frequently discovered at a late stage.

Diagnosis

% of Risk Per Year

% of Risk in 4 Years

Intestinal metaplasia advancing to low-grade dysplasia

4.3%

16.1%

Intestinal metaplasia advancing to high-grade dysplasia

0.9%

3.6%

Intestinal metaplasia advancing to esophageal cancer

0.5%

2.0%

Data obtained from Sharma P, Falk GW, Weston AP, et al. Dysplasia and cancer in a large multicenter cohort of patients with Barrett’s esophagus. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2006; 4:566-572.

Facts

  • From 1975 to 2001, the frequency of cancer of the esophagus rose about six-fold in the U.S.; from 4 cases per million people to 23. At the same time, the rate of death from esophageal cancer has grown by seven-fold, from 2 deaths per million people to 15. 16
  • Patients with Barrett's esophagus have a risk of developing cancer of the esophagus 30 to 125 times higher than patients without this condition. 17
  • The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2009, about 16,470 new cases of cancer of the esophagus were diagnosed. 18
  • Even with aggressive therapy, the 5-year survival rate from EAC is only about 17%. 18