Reflux esophagitis (RO) and Barrett's esophagus (BO) can cause esophageal adenocarcinoma (OAC). The esophageal mucosa in the RO-BO-OAC cascade is chronically exposed to gastro-esophageal reflux. Epidermal growth factor (EGF) has an important role in the protection and repair of mucosal damage, and non-physiologic levels are associated with gastrointestinal tumors. The aim is to determine the functional effect of EGF gene polymorphisms on RO, BO and OAC development. A cohort of 871 unrelated Dutch Caucasians consisted of 198 healthy controls, 298 RO patients, 246 BO patients and 129 OAC patients. The frequency of the EGF-production-associated 5′UTR A61G polymorphism was determined in these four groups. EGF immunohistochemistry was performed on BO biopsies. EGF expression was significantly lower in the G/G genotype compared with the A/G (P0.008) and A/A (P0.002) group. The G/G genotype was significantly more prevalent in RO (odds ratios (OR)2.6; 95% confidence intervals (95% CI): 1.3-5.2), BO (OR3.0; 95% CI: 1.5-6.2) and OAC (OR4.1; 95% CI: 1.8-9.7) than in controls. The G allele is associated with reduced EGF expression and increased risk for RO, BO and OAC development. This indicates that reduced mucosal protection resulting from genetically decreased EGF expression enhances esophageal tumor development.

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American Journal of Human Genetics
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Menke, V., Pot, R., Moons, L., van Zoest, K. P. M., Hansen, B., van Dekken, H., … Kuipers, E. (2012). Functional single-nucleotide polymorphism of epidermal growth factor is associated with the development of Barrett's esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma. American Journal of Human Genetics, 57(1), 26–32. doi:10.1038/jhg.2011.124