In the United States, population-based studies indicate that Caucasiansare 4 times as likely as African Americans to haveesophageal adenocarcinoma. In addition, studies of patients referredfor endoscopy showed a preponderance of Caucasians (70%?90%)among patients diagnosed with Barrett's esophagus (BE). Becausegastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is thought to predisposeindividuals to BE, which may further develop into esophageal adenocarcinoma,population-based studies have been conducted to examinethe prevalence of GERD symptoms in the United States. None ofthese studies, however, has provided information on possible racialdifferences in the prevalence of GERD.
In the June 2004 issue of Gastroenterology, Hashem B.El-Serag, MD, and colleagues report the results of a cross-sectionalsurvey and endoscopy study of 496 employees at a VeteranAdministration medical center. Results showed that the age-adjustedprevalence of heartburn or regurgitation was not significantlydifferent among African Americans, Caucasians, and otherraces. African Americans, however, did have a persistently lowerrisk for esophagitis. The authors conclude that Caucasians andAfrican Americans in the United States have a similarly high prevalenceof GERD symptoms; African Americans, however, have alower prevalence of esophagitis, compared with Caucasians.