Esophageal adenocarcinoma carries a very poor prognosis. For this reason, it is critical to have cost-effective surveillance and prevention strategies and early and accurate diagnosis, as well as evidence-based treatment guidelines. Barrett’s esophagus is the most important precursor lesion for esophageal adenocarcinoma, which follows a defined metaplasia–dysplasia–carcinoma sequence. Accurate recognition of dysplasia in Barrett’s esophagus is crucial due to its pivotal prognostic value. For early-stage esophageal adenocarcinoma, depth of submucosal invasion is a key prognostic factor. Our systematic review of all published data demonstrates a “rule of doubling” for the frequency of lymph node metastases: tumor invasion into each progressively deeper third of submucosal layer corresponds with a twofold increase in the risk of nodal metastases (9.9% in the superficial third of submucosa (sm1) group, 22.0% in the middle third of submucosa (sm2) group, and 40.7% in deep third of submucosa (sm3) group). Other important risk factors include lymphovascular invasion, tumor differentiation, and the recently reported tumor budding. In this review, we provide a concise update on the histopathological features, ancillary studies, molecular signatures, and surveillance/management guidelines along the natural history from Barrett’s esophagus to early stage invasive adenocarcinoma for practicing pathologists.
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