Is There a Heartburn/Cancer Connection?
Could frequent heartburn lead to cancers of the throat and vocal cords? It’s possible that there is a heartburn/cancer connection, according to a new study from Brown University. The good news: common over-the-counter remedies might reduce the risk.
First, let’s start with some background:
Also known as gastric reflux, heartburn is a painful burning feeling that can be felt in the throat or chest. It can result when stomach acids back up in the esophagus, which transports food from the mouth to the stomach. That back-up is known as acid reflux. Heartburn can be triggered by things like:
- Eating fatty, spicy or acidic meals
- Dining right before bedtime
- Drinking alcohol (especially red wine) or caffeinated beverages
Many people who have heartburn more than twice each week are diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. This reflux can harm the lining of the esophagus over time and, according to the study, can be linked to higher throat and vocal-cord cancer risk. Researchers compared Boston-area residents both with and without a history of throat and vocal-cord cancers. Those with frequent heartburn showed a 78-percent higher risk for those cancers if they didn’t drink heavily or smoke. But those with frequent heartburn who took over-the-counter (OTC) antacids had a 41-percent lower risk. The decreased risk was linked only to OTC antacids, not home remedies or even prescription meds. And the antacids seemed to help protect people, regardless of whether they drank, smoked or had oral HPV, which is linked to a higher risk of certain oral cancers. Scientists still aren’t sure why antacids are associated with lower risk. However, even though they seem to be beneficial, it’s still important to help fight oral-cancer risk by eating plenty of fruits and veggies, avoiding tobacco and not drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. If you’re dealing with heartburn problems, then you know how uncomfortable — and persistent — they can be. Call us if you need personalized advice for dealing with heartburn and fighting it off for the future. We’re here to help when you need us.