cranberriesBarett’s esophagus is a pre-cancerous condition arising in 10-20% of people with chronic reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus. People with Barrett’s esophagus might have heartburn, indigestion, difficulty swallowing solid foods, or they may be awakened by regurgitating food at night. Patients with Barrett’s esophagus have an increased risk of developing esophageal adenocarcinoma, the most rapidly increasing cancer in the United States.

A recent study, appearing in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (Vol. 56, No. 3: February 13, 2008, e-published ahead of print) looked at the effect of cranberry extract (proanthocyanidin-rich extract) on inhibiting human esophageal adenocarcinoma cells (cancer cells from the human esophagus). The extract significantly inhibited the proliferation of the cancer cells. A number of recent in vitro and limited in vivo investigations have reported that cranberry extracts affect multiple cancer-associated processes in breast, colon, prostate, and other cancer cell lines of epithelial origin.

Diets high in fruits and vegetables have generally been associated with a reduction of risk for esophageal adenocarcinoma and diets high in meat tend to increase the risk.