Although endoscopic surveillance of patients with Barrett's oesophagus has been widely implemented, its effectiveness is debateable. The recently reported low annual oesophageal adenocarcinoma risk in population studies, the failure to identify most Barrett's patients at risk of disease progression, the poor adherence to surveillance and biopsy protocols, and the significant risk of misclassification of dysplasia all tend to undermine the effectiveness of current management, in particular, endoscopic surveillance programmes, to prevent or improve the outcomes of patients with oesophageal adenocarcinoma. The ongoing increase in incidence of Barrett's oesophagus and consequent growth of the surveillance population, together with the associated discomfort and costs of endoscopic surveillance, demand improved techniques for accurately determining individual risk of oesophageal adenocarcinoma. More accurate techniques are needed to run efficient surveillance programmes in the coming decades. In this review, we will discuss the current knowledge on the epidemiology of Barrett's oesophagus, and the challenging epidemiological dilemmas that need to be addressed when assessing the current screening and surveillance strategies.
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