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Barrett's Esophagus Incidence Increasing in Australia

New cases of short-segment disease are rising but new cases of long-segment disease are declining

FRIDAY, June 30 (HealthDay News) -- In an Australian population undergoing esophagogastroduodenoscopies (EGD), new cases of Barrett's esophagus have significantly increased since 1990, with the biggest increase seen in diagnoses of short-segment Barrett's esophagus (SSBE), according to a study published in the June issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

Bradley J. Kendall, M.B.B.S., F.R.A.C.P., and David C. Whiteman, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Herston, Australia, identified all persons newly diagnosed with Barrett's esophagus in an Australian health region in 1990, 1998 and 2002.

Between 1990 and 2002, the researchers found that new Barrett's esophagus cases increased from 2.9 to 18.9 per 1,000 endoscopies. They found that SSBE increased from no new cases in 1990 to 6.2 new cases per 1,000 EGDs in 2002, and that long-segment Barrett's esophagus decreased from 2.3 new cases in 1990 to 1.9 new cases per 1,000 EGD in 2002.

"Data suggest the incidence of Barrett's esophagus is increasing, but the vast majority are of the short-segment variety," states the author of an accompanying editorial. "Whether SSBE has an increased cancer risk is poorly defined, whereas overdiagnosis is common and it is associated with increased insurance costs and perception of cancer risks. Maybe in this disease, ignorance is bliss."

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