Multiple studies have shown a link between esophageal cancer and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). One new study by Brown University suggests that reflux may also have a causal relationship with throat cancer. As unintuitive as it may seem, there may also be a link between the medications that are taken to stop acid production in the stomach and esophageal cancer. When acid production is stopped or slowed in the stomach, the environment there changes from acidic to alkaline, making it more hospitable to bile (from the small intestine). If bile reaches the esophagus or throat, it is just as destructive as acid. This process is unstudied and untested, however.

One study conducted in 2011 from a lab associated with the University of Pittsburgh concluded that people with mild or absent gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) have significantly higher odds of developing cancer compared to people who are medically treated for GERD. This is causing people with mild or absent symptoms to not get screened, even though they should be. Furthermore, people taking proton pump inhibitors were between 61.3% and 81.5% more likely to have cancer if they reported regular or mild GERD symptoms compared to people with severe symptoms.

Some scientists say that this study supports the notion that treatment for GERD creates a more hospitable environment for bile, which then does bad things to the esophagus if refluxed.

This study reiterates medication manufacturer’s warnings that some medications for GERD should not be taken for longer than 2 months at a time. If you’re experiencing symptoms of reflux or have questions about the medications you’re on, please contact Orlando ENT today to make an appointment.

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