A new GERD clinical study has had some interesting results. This recent study was published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the official journal of the American Gastroenterological Association. The medical researchers that were conducting this study came to a new conclusion which may shock the many Americans who live with gastroesophageal reflux disease (or GERD). Their study has shown that inflammation could play a crucial role in the progression from reflux to esophageal cancer.
Rune Erichsen, MD, one of the medical researchers from Aarhus University Hospital, served as the lead author of this GERD clinical study. She stated that their research showed some very troubling possibilities. Her team spent some time investigating the damage that is caused to the esophageal lining by GERD. What they discovered is that the esophageal damage, which could be viewed with endoscopy, is crucial in the progression of normal cells to cancerous cells. Rune stated that given these results, Barrett’s esophagus most likely serves as an intermediate step during these progression stages.
In just the past three decades, the number of esophageal cancer cases has increased significantly in both the U.S. and Europe. There are as many as 10,000 new cases estimated to be diagnosed in the U.S. each year. With the number of new cases on the rise, the overall risk of death to esophageal cancer remains high.
It has become clear that gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is indeed a primary risk factor for esophageal cancer. However, medical researchers are still puzzled when it comes to the exact role that the inflammation in the lining of the esophagus plays in this development. The clinical name for this inflammation is erosive reflux disease, and it is caused by GERD. Interestingly, Dr. Erichsen has noted that even though GERD patients with a history of irritation, swelling, or inflammation are at an increased risk of esophageal cancer, their absolute risk of cancer is still relatively low. (see also: esophageal cancer treatment)
So, a team of medical researchers decided to conduct a nationwide cohort study. They were able to obtain the data from population-based Danish medical registries (they utilized data from 1996 all the way through 2008) for 33,849 patients who had GERD. During their study, the team found that 26,194 of these GERD patients (about 77%) had developed erosive reflux disease. Of these patients, 37 eventually developed esophageal cancer during a mean follow-up period of 7.4 years.
These results showed that the incidence of cancer in these erosive reflux patients significantly larger than what was expected for the general population. In contrast, the researchers found that of the 7,655 patients who didn’t develop erosive reflux disease, only one was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.