Barrett esophagus is a metaplastic change in the lining of the distal esophageal epithelium, characterized by replacement of the normal squamous epithelium by specialized intestinal metaplasia. The presence of Barrett esophagus increases the risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma several-fold. Esophageal adenocarcinoma is a malignancy with rapidly rising incidence and persistently poor outcomes when diagnosed after the onset of symptoms. Risk factors for Barrett esophagus include chronic gastroesophageal reflux, central obesity, white race, male gender, older age, smoking, and a family history of Barrett esophagus or esophageal adenocarcinoma. Screening for Barrett esophagus in those with several risk factors followed by endoscopic surveillance to detect dysplasia or adenocarcinoma is currently recommended by society guidelines. Minimally invasive nonendoscopic tools for the early detection of Barrett esophagus are currently being developed. Multimodality endoscopic therapy—using a combination of endoscopic resection and ablation techniques—for the treatment of dysplasia and early adenocarcinoma is successful in eliminating intestinal metaplasia and preventing progression to adenocarcinoma, with outcomes comparable to those after esophagectomy. Risk stratification of those diagnosed with Barrett esophagus is a challenge at present, with active research focused on identifying clinical and biomarker panels to identify those with low and high risk of progression. This narrative review highlights some of the challenges and recent progress in this field.
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