Can GERD Lead to Esophageal Cancer?

GERD, or gastrointestinal reflux disease, is a common disorder that causes heartburn. If you’re like many people with GERD, you may be curious about a possible connection to esophageal cancer. While esophageal cancer is a very uncommon complication of GERD, it is still important to become familiar with the potential effects of your condition and keep tabs on any changes in your health.

Possible complications of GERD

Many people with GERD do not develop any serious symptoms and can effectively manage their heartburn with conservative measures. Still, some patients – around 10 to 15 percent – develop Barrett’s esophagus, a condition that triggers precancerous changes in the lining of the esophagus from exposure to stomach acid. Even so, Barrett’s esophagus is easily managed in most cases and very rarely develops into esophageal cancer.

Although it can potentially increase the chances of esophageal cancer, GERD is much more likely to lead to other, less serious conditions such as tooth decay, esophageal ulcers and esophagitis. Be sure to schedule regular visits with your primary care physician or gastroenterologist if you have GERD and promptly consult with him or her if you are experiencing any new or unusual symptoms.

Esophageal cancer risk factors

It is especially important to carefully monitor your GERD symptoms if additional risk factors for esophageal cancer apply to you, including:

  • Being older than 55
  • Using tobacco products
  • Being diagnosed with achalasia or tylosis
  • Having a family history of esophageal cancer

Esophageal cancer screening at Moffitt Cancer Center

Moffitt Cancer Center is here to help patients who are concerned about their esophageal cancer risk. If you would like to speak with one of our experts about potential screening options or ways to lower your risk, complete a new patient registration form online or call 1-888-663-3488. We welcome patients with or without referrals.