The condition leads to esophageal cancer
More than three million Americans could have Barrett's esophagus, a condition that leads to esophageal cancer, a new study contends.
U.S., German, and Swedish researchers conducted a study of about 3,000 residents of two northern Swedish villages and found that 2 percent of them had Barrett's esophagus. When that rate is applied to the U.S. population, it translates into roughly three million Americans with the condition.
The study, the first to provide population-based estimates of Barrett's esophagus, also found that the disease does occur in people who don't have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), believed to be a precursor to Barrett's esophagus.
The findings appear in the December issue of the journal Gastroenterology.
"Barrett's esophagus is associated with one of the most rapidly increasing cancers in the Western World and to this point, data on the prevalence of the disease in the general population have been unavailable," study lead author Dr. Jukka Ronkainen, of the Karolinksa Institute in Sweden, said in a prepared statement.
"This Swedish-based study has helped lay the foundation for researching the true prevalence of Barrett's and could serve as a basis for future studies in different communities," Ronkainen said.
In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Richard E. Sampliner, of the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System, wrote: "The definition put forth in this study of the prevalence of Barrett's esophagus in the general adult population represents a major step forward. The next step for researchers and practitioners is to focus on screening for Barrett's in people without reflux disease and accurately identifying those at-risk or living with the disease."
The U.S. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse has more about Barretts esophagus (digestive.niddk.nih.gov ).