Reasons for increase remain unclear
“While esophageal adenocarcinoma is uncommon overall in younger patients, this study importantly highlights that not only has the incidence of esophageal adenocarcinoma increased more than threefold in patients under the age of 50 over the last 4 decades, but that younger patients are presenting with more advanced disease and have overall poorer survival, compared to older patients,” Rahul A. Shimpi, MD, of Duke University, Durham, N.C., said in an interview.
“The reasons for these findings are unclear, but the authors propose a number of potential factors that could explain them. These include differences in tumor biology, rising rates of obesity and [gastroesophageal reflux disease] in younger patients, decreased endoscopic screening for and surveillance of Barrett’s esophagus in this age group, and differing therapeutic approaches to management,” Dr. Shimpi said.
“The findings from this study underscore that, while uncommon, clinicians need to be aware of the rising incidence of esophageal cancer in younger patients. It is important that even younger patients presenting with esophageal symptoms, such as dysphagia, undergo investigation,” he emphasized.
“I would like to see further study into the potential factors driving the findings in this study, including whether trends in differential treatment modalities account for some of the survival differences found in different age groups,” Dr. Shimpi added. “Finally, further research will ideally clarify optimal Barrett’s screening and surveillance approaches in patients younger than age 50 in order to determine whether new strategies might impact esophageal adenocarcinoma incidence and outcomes in this group.”
The study was funded in part by the National Cancer Institute and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. Two authors disclosed relationships outside the submitted work, but Dr. Codipilly and the remaining authors had no financial conflicts to disclose. Dr. Shimpi had no financial conflicts to disclose.
SOURCE: Codipilly DC et al. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2020 Dec 11. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-20-0944.