Heartburn raises cancer risk … but antacids may reduce risk


Gastric reflux, more commonly known as heartburn, can increase the risk of cancer of the throat area (laryngopharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma). Now the good news, reported online May 23, 2013 in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention. Individuals without a history of heavy tobacco or alcohol consumption who have a history of frequent heartburn have a 1.8 times greater risk. This risk remained, even when the researchers adjusted for age, sex, race, smoking, alcohol consumption, presence of human papilloma virus (HPV), educations, and body mass index. For those with a history of heartburn, the use of antacids only to relieve symptoms was associated with a big drop in the risk of larynx cancer (by two-thirds!) or laryngopharyngeal cancer (by about a third). In addition, there was the suggestion of a lower risk of cancers of the pharynx. While these findings are provocative, we still need more studies to clarify a potential role for antacids as a cancer risk reduction agent. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

Small print: Remember, the information provided here is for general use only. We do not provide medical advice for individuals, and recommend that you check in with a valued health care provider.

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Harvard AB Yale MD UPenn Radiation Oncology Radiation Oncologist, Seattle area

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