New research suggests more cases of esophageal cancer may be attributed to gastroesophageal reflux disease than doctors previously thought.
Investigators who studied the link between GERD and different types of esophageal cancers found a more advanced form of the disease that occurs at the point where the esophagus meets the stomach may be caused by reflux.
The authors note doctors have long known GERD is responsible for cancers occurring along the tubular part of the esophagus. They also know some cancers occurring near the opening to the stomach are caused by reflux because they can see signs of a condition called Barrett mucosa, which indicates damage caused by GERD. However, they’ve typically attributed another form of cancer occurring in the same region to other causes because Barrett mucosa hasn’t been present.
This study compared 215 people whose cancerous tumors were located near the opening to the stomach. Results showed tumors linked to Barrett mucosa were generally smaller, identified earlier, and less likely to have spread than those not linked to Barrett mucosa. This led the researchers to conclude the latter were simply more advanced cancers that had already destroyed the underlying Barrett mucosa, rather than a separate form of the condition.
If these two types of cancer really are one disease, report the authors, it would nearly double the number of esophageal cancers caused by GERD every year.