Ever get that burning sensation down your chest after eating a big meal? If you suffer from acid reflux, you know how uncomfortable it can be. But what you may not know is that, according to the newest research, your acid reflux could also be creating an uncomfortable increase in your risk for certain diseases.
Heartburn occurs when acid from your stomach backs up into your sensitive esophagus. Heartburn can range in severity, from mild and occasional episodes to frequent and severe episodes that negatively affect your daily life. Some sufferers manage to get by on over-the-counter antacids to relieve their discomfort, while others with more severe heartburn cases must often rely on prescription medications for symptom relief.
New Research on Acid Reflux and Cancer Risk
A study published in the Journal of Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention looked at 631 patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the throat and/or vocal cords, along with 1,234 healthy control patients. Once the researchers controlled for race, gender, age, smoking, alcohol use, HPV16 seropositivity, education and body mass index, they found that the individuals with a history of frequent heartburn had a whopping 78 percent increase in risk for throat cancer or vocal cord cancer.
Medications and Cancer Risk
Patients that have frequent, severe heartburn and acid reflex are commonly prescribed medications such as Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid to help relieve their symptoms. The researchers found that the use of these medications did not impact cancer risk at all. However, the researchers found that participants who used over-the-counter (OTC) antacids for symptom relief managed to lower their cancer risk by 41 percent, compared to those that used nothing to relieve their heartburn.
The researchers noted that individuals who are usually prescribed medications for their acid reflux often have much more severe heartburn than those that just use OTC remedies. They caution people to not read too much into the fact that no correlation was found between prescription medications and a decreased cancer risk; it could just be that these patients have much more severe cases of heartburn and therefore more damage to the throat and neck.
This research shows that there is a relationship between frequent heartburn and an increased cancer risk. It’s important to consult a medical professional if you suffer from frequent bouts of heartburn. They will help you to develop a treatment approach that may include OTC antacids in combination with prescription medications, which will help to manage your heartburn and acid reflux symptoms. By combining treatment options for acid reflux relief, you may also be protecting your throat and vocal cords from cancer.