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Int J Oncol. 2012 Aug;41(2):414-24. doi: 10.3892/ijo.2012.1481. Epub 2012 May 17.

Barrett's esophagus and esophageal cancer: an overview.

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Department of Internal Medicine and Clinical Oncology, University of Bari Medical School, Bari, Italy.


Although esophageal cancer (EC) is the eighth most common cancer in several European countries, it is one of deadliest worldwide. The most frequent predisposing factor implicated in its development is Barrett's esophagus (BE), an acquired metaplastic transformation of the esophageal lining cells from normal squamous epithelium into specialised or intestinal-like columnar epithelium. The major risk factor for BE is gastroesophageal reflux disease. Although BE is in itself a benign and often asymptomatic disorder, its clinical importance stems from the recognition that it represents the main precursor lesion for the development of esophageal adenocarcinoma (AC), a tumor that is rapidly increasing especially in developed countries and is associated with a low survival rate. This paper provides an overview of the epidemiology and natural history of BE as well as of the possible pathogenetic mechanisms underlying the development of BE and its progressive transition to AC. New diagnostic tests are described, recommendations for screening and surveillance are provided and surgical and ablative procedures to treat dysplastic lesions and early neoplasia are discussed. Claimed chemopreventive agents and biomarkers that in the near future may help identify people with a higher risk of EC are also considered.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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