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How Acid Reflux (GERD) Can Lead to Barrett's Esophagus

If you have chronic acid reflux or frequent heartburn, you are at risk for a condition called Barrett's esophagus. Barrett's esophagus is a change in the lining of the esophagus, the swallowing tube that carries foods and liquids from the mouth to the stomach. Left untreated, it can lead to cancer of the esophagus. About 3.3 million American adults have Barrett's esophagus. With modern medical technology, they can be treated.

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Some heartburn sufferers (estimated at 5.6% in the U.S.1) may develop a condition called Barrett's esophagus. Barrett's esophagus patients have a 0.5% chance of the disease progressing to esophageal cancer each year. It's important to note, however, that the risk is cumulative. This means that, over a 10-year span, that risk could increase to 5%.2

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  1. The Prevalence of BE in the US: Estimates from a Simulation Model Confirmed by SEER Data. Dis Esophagus. 2010 August;23(6):451-457.
  2. Data obtained from Sharma P, Falk GW, Weston AP, et al. Dysplasia and cancer in a large multicenter cohort of patients with Barrett's esophagus. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2006; 4:566-572.
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