OBJECTIVES: Relatives of patients with Barrett's esophagus have an increased prevalence of reflux symptoms. Our aim was to find if these relatives were at increased risk of having Barrett's esophagus. METHODS: First degree relatives of patients with Barrett's esophagus completed the Reflux Symptom Questionnaire. Relatives with reflux symptoms, never previously investigated, were invited for endoscopy. Controls were patients with similar reflux symptoms and no family histories of Barrett's esophagus. RESULTS: We found previously undiagnosed Barrett's esophagus (>3 cm) in eight of 100 relatives (8%) from 53 families and in five of 100 controls (5%) (adjusted OR = 1.58, 95% CI = 0.46-5.45). Including another 27 previously investigated cases, 10 of the 53 families had two or more cases of Barrett's esophagus. Barrett's esophagus prevalence increased with age (p = 0.014) and was associated with reflux symptoms of >10 yr (p = 0.020), and Barrett's esophagus was twice as common in males (p = 0.28). Reflux esophagitis was found in 74% of relatives and 57% of controls without Barrett's (p = 0.04). CONCLUSIONS: The risk of Barrett's esophagus in any one symptomatic relative of a patient with Barrett's esophagus was not statistically higher than in other persons with reflux symptoms. However, more relatives of Barrett's esophagus patients have reflux symptoms, so the overall prevalence of Barrett's esophagus and reflux esophagitis in relatives may also be greater than in the general population. In considering whether to screen patients with reflux symptoms for Barrett's esophagus, age and duration of symptoms are stronger predictors than having a relative with Barrett's esophagus.
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