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Mayo Clinic studies find association between acid reflux and esophageal cancer

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Two new Mayo Clinic studies draw attention to the risk factors and possible genetic basis for Barrett's esophagus and esophageal cancer (adenocarcinoma). These studies will be presented Monday, May 22, and Tuesday, May 23, in Los Angeles at Digestive Disease Week 2006.

According to G. Richard Locke III, M.D., and Yvonne Romero, M.D., Mayo Clinic gastroenterologists and co-authors of one study, the incidence of esophageal cancer is increasing at what has been called an "epidemic" rate, but the cause for this increase is uncertain. Their team studied 186 cases of esophageal and stomach cancer (adenocarcinoma) and found a significant association between esophageal cancer and gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as acid reflux.

According to Dr. Locke, the research strengthens the understanding of the connection between acid reflux and esophageal cancer.

"But only about 5 percent of individuals who experience acid reflux will develop Barrett's esophagus," says Dr. Romero. "And once Barrett's esophagus is diagnosed, patients have a 30- to 125-fold increased risk of developing esophageal cancer."

Barrett's esophagus is a condition that occurs when acid reflux stimulates changes in the lining of the esophagus so that it resembles the lining of the intestines. Currently, the only way to identify Barrett's esophagus is by performing an endoscopy.

"Acid reflux is such a common problem that it is unrealistic to perform an endoscopic examination on everyone who experiences it," explains Dr. Locke. "Thus, in order to learn what's causing this increase in esophageal cancer, we first need to know what's causing Barrett's esophagus and whether there are any genetic risks for which acid reflux patients could be screened."

A second study, led by Dr. Romero, examined that question.

Her team discovered strong evidence for susceptibility genes in familial Barrett's esophagus and esophageal cancer (aden
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Contact: John Murphy
newsbureau@mayo.edu
507-284-5005
Mayo Clinic
23-May-2006


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