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Heartburn and Throat Cancer:Is There a Link?

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Nov 06, 2014
4.8 / 5(4 Ratings)
Quick Bites

  • People with smoking and alcohol history experience frequent heartburns.
  • People with frequent heartburn are at higher risk of throat cancer.
  • Over-the-counter antacids may treat heart burns.
  • Treating heartburn reduces risk of throat and vocal cord cancer.

More

People who frequently suffer from heartburn may also be at a higher risk of developing cancer of the pharynx and larynx (throat cancer).  A recent study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention claims that there may be a link between heart burn and throat cancer. The study, conducted at Brown University, analyzed records of around 630 people with throat cancer and vocal cord cancer and compared them with around 1,234 people without cancer. The researchers found that acid reflux, which causes heartburn, may be a risk factor for throat cancer.

heart burn

The Big Study

This is not the first study to hint at the connection between acid reflux and cancer, however, all earlier studies were either too small or had failed to take into account all the other factors such as smoking and alcohol. During this study, the researchers enrolled around 468 people with throat cancer, 163 people with cancer of the vocal cord and 1,234 people without cancer.

All the participants were asked to complete a questionnaire that asked for detailed information on alcohol and tobacco use, personal and family cancer history, as well as history of heartburn, and other things that might have increased their risk of developing cancers of the throat or vocal cord.

throat cancer

The researchers also took blood samples of all the participants to see if they'd ever been infected with the human papillomavirus. When analyzing the data, researchers took into account age, gender, race, body-mass index, smoking, alcohol consumption and previous infection with HPV.

People without a history of heavy smoking or drinking who have experienced frequent heartburn during their lifetime are 78% more likely to develop cancer of the throat or vocal cord as compared with those who have never experienced heart burns. This increased risk can be reduced by simple over-the-counter antacids that are regular part of heartburn treatment.

Researchers found that among people who were neither heavy smokers nor heavy drinkers, having frequent heartburn was associated with a 78% increased risk of developing cancers of the throat and vocal cords. They also found that among the people who suffered from regular heartburn, those who used antacids had a 41% lower risk of developing cancers of the throat and vocal cord when compared with people who had never taken heartburn medication.

Image Courtesy: Getty

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Throat Cancer (Larynx and Pharynx)

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