Heartburn Poses Cancer Risk

Researchers studied heartburn incidence and medication use in 631 patients with squamous cell cancers of the throat and vocal cords who were not heavy smokers or drinkers, matching them with 1,234 healthy controls. The study was published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

After controlling for age, sex, race, smoking, alcohol consumption, HOV 16 infection, education and body mass index, they found that people who had reported a history of frequent heartburn were 78 percent more likely to have cancer than those who did not.

Those with frequent heartburn who took antacids reduced their risk for cancer by 41 percent, compared with those whose heartburn was untreated.

“We have confirmed that heartburn is an independent risk factor, and standard antacid treatment of heartburn may reduce the risk of throat cancer,” said the lead author, Scott M. Langevin, an assistant professor of the University of Cincinnati.

There was no reduced risk among those taking classes of drugs known as proton pump inhibitors (Prilosec and others) or histamine H2 receptor antagonists (Zantac, for example) – but this may be because people taking such drugs are likely to have the most severe cases of acid reflux, and not because those drugs are ineffective, the researchers said.

New York Times, Tuesday, May 28, 2013 Science Times Well Section
Image: GETTY
Article by: Nicholas Bakalar


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