Barrett's Esophagus (cont.)
Bhupinder Anand, MD
Wilfred M. Weinstein, MD
In this Article
Who develops Barrett's esophagus?
Approximately 10% to 15% of individuals with chronic symptoms of GERD develop Barrett's esophagus, and it is estimated that Barrett's esophagus may affect as many as one in 100 to one in 500 individuals in the general Caucasian population, especially among males. Not everyone with GERD has symptoms of GERD, however. Therefore, some people with Barrett's are unaware that they have Barrett's because they have GERD without any symptoms at all or have very mild and infrequent symptoms.
It is unclear why Barrett's esophagus is so overwhelmingly more common in white males than in any other group. For example, although women and African-Americans do not seem to be protected from developing GERD, they are largely protected (especially African-Americans) from developing Barrett's esophagus and Barrett's cancer (adenocarcinoma). There is evidence that in the western hemisphere, esophageal cancer and cancer of the gastroesophageal junction (called cardia cancer) are increasing in frequency, perhaps more so than any other gastrointestinal tract cancer. (You should know, however, that colon cancer is still very much more common than esophageal cancer.)
Barrett's esophagus may run in some families and be genetically determined. Studies are underway to determine if any genes or markers can be found in these families that would predict the development of Barrett's esophagus in the general population. In these families with Barrett's as well as with Barrett's in the general population, GERD is the common denominator. However, the question is why the Barrett's occurs more commonly in these families than in others with comparably severe GERD, but with no family association.
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