Did you know that if you have Barrett’s esophagus, you might be at increased risk for colon polyps? Barrett’s esophagus is a complication of chronic acid reflux, which is also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). When stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, the acid can damage the esophageal lining. As the esophagus attempts to heal, the cells may undergo changes as they try to protect the esophagus and this can increase your risk for esophageal cancer.
Dr. Arthi Kumaravel, M.D., led a case-controlled study on the connection of Barrett’s esophagus and colon polyps. He and his team analyzed 519 participants, of which 173 had Barrett’s esophagus and 346 did not. Results showed that those with Barrett’s esophagus were 80 percent more likely to have any type of polyp detected at a colonoscopy and 50 percent more likely to have adenomas detected.
What is the nature of the connection between these two disorders? Could it be that the environmental risk factors for Barrett’s esophagus and colon cancer are similar? Maybe both diseases are equally affected by factors such as age, smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity.
Kumaravel and his colleagues at the Center of Excellence for Barrett’s Esophagus at Cleveland Clinic responded to the study saying, “There have been several potential explanations for the association between Barrett’s esophagus and colon polyps or colorectal cancer, but the underlying mechanisms responsible for the higher prevalence of colon polyps in Barrett’s esophagus patients are not clearly understood.”
It is too early to determine the implications of this study. However, if further study affirms the connection between Barrett’s esophagus and colon polyps, the results may impact colon screening and surveillance guidelines for patients who have Barrett’s esophagus. Gastroenterologists may recommend shorter intervals of time between colonoscopies for those suffering from Barrett’s esophagus so polyps can be discovered and removed sooner (Source: Healio).
If you have Barrett’s esophagus, talk to your gastroenterologist about when you should have a baseline colonoscopy. If you have already had your first colonoscopy, ask your doctor when you should be screened again and make sure you know the warning signs of colon cancer. Often, colon cancer has no symptoms, but you can be proactive in your health by knowing your risk, being familiar with warning signs, and getting regular screenings.