Screening for esophageal cancer, called endoscopy, involves placing a tube with a small camera down the throat to look for tumors.
Anyone with acid reflux disease who develops more serious symptoms that don't respond to medication, such as a problem swallowing, unexplained weight loss, or vomiting, should see a doctor, as those symptoms could be signs of esophageal cancer, he noted.
Although it wasn't addressed in this study, obesity and smoking increase the risk for esophageal cancer, said Rubenstein.
The study sought to show a baseline age for esophageal cancer that would compare to the generally established ages for screening for other more common cancers such as colorectal (50 years) and breast cancer (40 years).
In Rubenstein's opinion, screening for esophageal cancer should not be performed routinely in men younger than 50 or in women because of the very low incidences of the cancer, regardless of the frequency of GERD symptoms.
Although Rubenstein said white males have a risk of developing esophageal cancer that's about four to five times higher than the risk for black males, the odds are still comparatively low. Men at any age are three times more likely to get colon cancer than esophageal cancer, according to the research.
Men over 60 who suffer from weekly GERD "might warrant screening," the authors concluded, but only if it were known to be accurate, safe and inexpensive.
Another expert, Dr. Gregory Haber said he had some concerns about the study's design because it is derived from other studies and based on mathematical calculation.
"I'm always a little suspect of studies based on computer models," said Haber, director of gastroenterology at Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City.
Haber also noted that screenings are done for
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