Background: The incidence of adenocarcinoma in the distal esophagus and at the gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) has been increasing in the last decades. It has been suggested that patients in whom Barrett mucosa can be identified in the surgical specimen have a better prognosis compared with those without. This has led to the belief that patients with and without Barrett mucosa may represent 2 distinct cancer types. Hypothesis: Distal esophageal-GEJ adenocarcinoma with and without Barrett mucosa share the same origin, but differ only in clinical presentation and outcome. Design and Setting: Retrospective cohort study in a university tertiary referral center. Patients and Methods: Between 1992 and 2002, 215 patients (173 men and 42 women; median age, 66 years; age range, 26-91 years) had esophagogastrectomy for adenocarcinoma of the distal esophagus-GEJ. Patients receiving neoadjuvant chemotherapy or radiation therapy were excluded. Main Outcome Measures: Clinical presentation, tumor characteristics, and survival were compared in patients with Barrett mucosa (n=140) and those without (n=75). Results: Patients with Barrett mucosa in the specimen had tumors that were diagnosed earlier; were smaller in size; earlier in stage, with fewer node metastases; and had a better 5-year survival. Conclusions: Observed differences in survival between patients with distal esophageal-GEJ adenocarcinoma with and without Barrett mucosa can be explained by earlier diagnosis. Patients without Barrett mucosa have their tumors detected later, when the disease is more advanced. This suggests the possibility that tumors without Barrett mucosa are not of a different origin, but rather are larger tumors that may have overgrown areas of Barrett mucosa.
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