Just how often must you have acid reflux from GERD (heartburn) to be at risk for esophageal cancer?

Esophageal cancer is one of the most frightening cancers to have, because its prognosis is poor in so many cases.

19.2% – Number of people who are alive five years after a diagnosis of esophageal cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program.

Usually, this disease is discovered only after it has spread, making successful treatment very unlikely for the long-term.

SEER estimates that there will be over 17,000 new U.S. cases in 2018.

People age 20 to 44 make up 2.3% of the cases, while those 65 to 74 make up 30.6%.

You may already know that GERD or chronic heartburn can lead to Barrett’s esophagus, which in turn is a risk factor for cancer of the esophagus.

Scientific Animations, Creative Commons/BY-SA/Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International

“Generally, we consider high risk for Barrett’s esophagus and subsequent esophageal cancer, those who have prolonged reflux symptoms requiring medication at least three times per week for more than five years, especially if older than 50,” explains Jonathan Zinberg, MD, chief of gastroenterology at South Nassau Communities Hospital, Oceanside, NY.

“However, new onset symptoms past the age of 50 should also be suspect and evaluated.

“Some patients with Barrett’s have few if any symptoms, so these are merely guidelines for higher suspicion.

“Those with a family history of esophageal cancer are also at a somewhat higher risk.”

If you have GERD (which also commonly goes by the term “acid reflux”), it’s vital that you get this under control to avoid developing Barrett’s esophagus.
Treatment options include changes in diet, avoiding eating close to bedtime and sleeping with one’s chest elevated.
Once you are diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus, you will need lifelong surveillance of the interior of this so-called food pipe to make sure that nothing worrisome begins taking shape, and if so, to receive prompt treatment.

Jonathan Zinberg, MD

Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. 
Source: seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/esoph.html