Frequent Heartburn Can Be A Risk Factor For Esophageal Cancer
Sufferers of heartburn often shrug off their discomfort, thinking its a natural occurrence and no big deal. While occasional heartburn, triggered by a particularly large, spicy or fatty meal, is no cause for alarm, antacids shouldnt have to be a regular dessert. If the pain is severe and becomes a way of life , it may be time to see your doctor. Chronic acid reflux can be a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease , which can lead to increased risk for esophageal cancer and other devastating consequences if left untreated.
According to the National Cancer Institute, esophageal cancer is one of the fastest-growing cancer diagnoses in the United States, with nearly 18,000 new cases diagnosed every year. Like many cancers, the causes of esophageal cancer are not completely understood, but researchers have established a clear link between GERD and adenocarcinoma a serious, potentially fatal cancer of the esophagus.
Heartburn And Cancer: Is There A Connection
Researchers are studying whether heartburn is also a risk factor for developing cancer of the larynx , Studies have suggestedWhen Heartburn Signals Cancer RiskBut you may not know that heartburn can be a symptom of something called gastroesophageal reflux disease , a particularly lethal cancer, recurring heartburn may also be a sign of ovarian cancer, This chronic condition can usually cause serious consequences if not taken care of.Is Heartburn/Acid Reflux a Sign of Cancer?When heartburn becomes GERD
Time It Takes Gerd To Turn Into Esophageal Cancer
Firstly, it is important to note that only a very tiny proportion of patients with GERD will ever develop esophageal cancer, says Santosh Sanagapalli, MD, a consultant gastroenterologist, endoscopist and specialist in esophageal disorders.
The type of cancer which is associated with chronic GERD is esophageal adenocarcinoma, continues Dr. Sanagapalli.
Cancer is thought to develop in GERD in a stepwise manner, and cancer does not develop overnight.
Some patients with chronic GERD will undergo a change in types of lining cells in the esophagus.
This is in response to chronic exposure to stomach acid.
The lining cells turn from esophageal type into those resembling stomach or intestinal lining cells to protect themselves from the acid exposure.
This change is termed Barretts esophagus.
This process is thought to typically take many years to decades .
Barretts esophagus is still benign, but carries an increased risk of developing into cancer.
The majority of cases of esophageal adenocarcinoma arise from segments of pre-existing Barretts esophagus.
Again, Barretts esophagus can progress to cancer in a stepwise fashion.
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Symptoms Of Esophageal Cancer
Cancer of the esophagus is discovered through a series of symptoms, such as:
- Difficulty swallowing, or dysphagia
- Esophageal bleeding, which appears as black stools
Most of us have had at least some of these symptoms, without having esophageal cancer. However, if you have a combination of these symptoms , it is important to see your doctor.
What To Make Of The Findings
If these findings are confirmed by further studies of GERD and esophageal and laryngeal cancer, it may guide clinical surveillance of GERD patients in the future, Abnet says.
All observational studies have limitations and our study alone does not confirm that GERD raises the risk for all these cancers,” he says. “We expect that our publication may lead other researchers to test this hypothesis in future studies.
GERD is one risk factor for esophageal and laryngeal cancer, but not the most serious one. In the United States, tobacco and heavy alcoholic beverage intake are the primary causes of esophageal and laryngeal squamous cancers, so avoiding those exposures is the most important preventive measure, Abnet says.
Our findings should not alarm people diagnosed with GERD, he adds. The best course of action for those with GERD symptoms is to speak to their physician about lifestyle modifications or medical interventions that could alleviate their GERD symptoms and improve their quality of life.
In some cases, physicians may recommend additional specific tests and treatments for GERD, but whether these treatments could also reduce the risk of esophageal and laryngeal cancer remains to be determined, he adds.
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How To Treat Gerd Before It Becomes Barretts Esophagus
There are several things you can do to help reduce GERD symptoms:
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat slowly and be sure to chew food thoroughly. If you know that some foods trigger symptoms, avoid those
- Dont lie down too soon after a meal. If you need to lay back, keep your head elevated.
- Stop smoking.
- Wear looser fitting clothing.
GERD can be treated with a relatively simple surgery to repair the failed lower esophageal sphincter. This can be a good option for a more permanent fix that does not require long-term use of Proton Pump Inhibitors or other medications.
What Can I Do To Lower My Risk Of Esophageal Cancer
Living a healthy, active lifestyle is the best way to lower your risk of any type of cancer, including esophageal cancer. A diet low in sugar and saturated fat and high in whole foods, like fruits and vegetables, can avoid or even repair the damage to the esophagus caused by a poor diet. There is a strong link between obesity and esophageal cancer, so maintaining a healthy weight is also very important.
Tobacco and alcohol use, especially when combined, is the biggest risk factor for esophageal cancer. So dont smoke or use tobacco in any form, and limit your alcohol consumption. If you currently smoke and would like help quitting, talk to your doctor or contact the New York State Smokers Quitline ( or , which is a free and confidential service for New Yorkers who want to stop smoking.
For more information about esophageal cancer and its treatment, listen to this informative podcast, where Dr. Fountzilas discusses promising new therapies and research for esophageal cancer.
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Gerd May Increase Risk Of Some Cancers
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease is very common in the United States, affecting up to 27.8% of the population.
- Studies have suggested a possible link between GERD and cancers of the larynx and esophagus.
- A recent study adds further evidence to these findings.
In a new study, researchers found evidence of a link between GERD and cancers of the larynx and esophagus. The study, which appears in the journal Cancer, adds to an existing body of evidence. The researchers hope that, if their results are confirmed, they might inform clinical surveillance of GERD patients and suggest new avenues for prevention of these malignancies.
the contents of the stomach to rise into the esophagus.
Researchers estimate that GERD affects 18.1% to 27.8% of people in the U.S.
People with GERD may experience heartburn or regurgitation, as well as chest pains, nausea, trouble swallowing, or a persistent cough.
GERD occurs when a persons lower esophageal sphincter weakens or relaxes at the wrong times. Having overweight or obesity, being pregnant, and smoking are each risk factors for GERD.
Researchers have linked GERD to laryngeal squamous cell carcinoma , a type of cancer of the aerodigestive tract. This part of the body includes the organs and tissues of the respiratory tract and upper digestive tract.
The authors of the present study note that earlier findings have been inconsistent.
Can Acid Reflux Cause Esophageal Cancer
Gastroesophageal reflux disease , or heartburn, is very common. Almost everyone experiences reflux symptoms from time to time, especially after eating a big meal, and it is not a sign of cancer.
However, about 10-15% of people with GERD will develop a condition called Barretts esophagus, where the tissue lining the esophagus begins to change and resemble small-bowel tissue because of repeated exposure to stomach acid. Barretts esophagus is considered precancerous, because it puts you at a slightly higher risk of developing esophageal cancer.
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When Gerd Progresses To Esophageal Cancer
GERD develops when acid that digests food in the stomach washes up into the esophagus. Often it occurs in people who overeat or who lie down too soon after eating. It may also be caused by defects in the valve that connects the esophagus to the stomach or by a condition called hiatal hernia, which is when the upper part of the stomach pushes up through the diaphragm and into the chest.
After someone has had GERD for many years, it can advance to a condition called Barretts esophagus. Barretts is a defensive mechanism of your esophagus, Dr. Molena explains. When the esophagus is bathed in acid all the time, it wants to protect itself, and so the cells in the lining begin to change. These changes can advance to become cancer.
When patients develop Barretts esophagus, their GERD symptoms often disappear. Its typical for patients with esophageal cancer to tell me that they suffered from GERD for years, but then it went away and they stopped taking their GERD medications, which would have actually reduced their cancer risk, Dr. Molena says.
Not everyone with GERD has the typical symptoms, which are heartburn and regurgitation soon after eating. Up to 20% may have different symptoms, such as coughing or chest pain, a sore throat or hoarse voice, or even frequent sinus infections. Its important to talk to your doctor about any of these.
Gerds Connection To Barretts Esophagus
When ignored, GERD can advance to a more severe condition called Barretts esophagus. The damaged tissues become thick, red, and begin to look and act like small-bowel tissue. This condition is called Barretts esophagus.
About 10% of GERD patients develop Barrett’s esophagus. People who have had trouble with acid reflux for over five years and experienced increased difficulty in swallowing are at the highest risk of the condition.
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Increased Risk Of Esophagus Cancer
Having GERD slightly raises your odds of getting this type of cancer.
Having Barrettâs esophagus can also make esophagus cancer more likely, especially if thereâs a history of the condition in your family.
Symptoms of this type of cancer, such as troubling swallowing and chest pain, donât appear until the disease reaches a later stage. Thatâs when it becomes harder to treat. Ask your doctor about getting screened if you have a higher risk for the disease. They may want to do an endoscopy regularly.
The Link Between Acid Reflux And Gi Cancer
Acid reflux, especially when its only a periodic condition, does not increase the risk of esophageal or stomach cancer. However, when acid reflux becomes chronic, it results in the esophagus being regularly exposed to stomach acid which can increase the risk of esophageal cancer. Chronic acid reflux is called Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, commonly referred to as GERD.
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What Makes Symptoms Worrisome
Theyre getting worse or persisting despite drug treatment.
Youve changed your diet to only very soft foods because items like meat, cereal, salads, apples, cookies, chips and even bread seem to get trapped in your chest and often come back up.
You have unexplained weight loss.
The risk factors for Barretts esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma include being overweight or obese, smoking, male gender, Caucasian ethnicity and age over 50, says Dr. Sanagapalli.
Patients who have a number of risk factors may risk progressing to cancer faster.
Dr. Sanagapalliis a gastroenterologist and director of the Esophageal Disorders Center at St Vincents Hospital, Darlinghurst. He performs diagnostic and therapeutic endoscopic procedures, and enjoys providing comprehensive and holistic care to patients with a wide variety of disorders affecting the gastrointestinal tract.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. Shes also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.
Esophageal Cancer Screening At Moffitt Cancer Center
Moffitt Cancer Center is here to help patients who are concerned about their esophageal cancer risk. If you would like to speak with one of our experts about potential screening options or ways to lower your risk, complete a new patient registration form online or call . We welcome patients with or without referrals.
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Can Gerd Lead To Esophageal Cancer
GERD, or gastrointestinal reflux disease, is a common disorder that causes heartburn. If youre like many people with GERD, you may be curious about a possible connection to esophageal cancer. While esophageal cancer is a very uncommon complication of GERD, it is still important to become familiar with the potential effects of your condition and keep tabs on any changes in your health.
What Is Heartburn
Heartburn happens when acid from the stomach leaks into the esophagus. Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux, though sometimes the terms are used interchangeably. The sphincter that connects the esophagus to the stomach is called the lower esophageal sphincter . Sometimes the LES relaxes when it isnât supposed to, allowing acid to flow up into the esophagus. Laying down after eating can make acid reflux worse and cause heartburn.
Symptoms of heartburn include difficulty swallowing, a burning sensation in the middle of your chest, or regurgitation of sour liquid. It can also cause coughing, laryngitis, and sleep problems.
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What Can You Do
Get the right treatment for your acid reflux to avoid having these related health problems.
Some lifestyle changes can also help:
- Eat smaller meals, and avoid snacking before bedtime.
- Raise the head of your bed by 6 inches.
- Cut back on fatty and acidic foods, alcohol, chocolate, peppermint, and coffee.
- If you smoke, stop
Heartburns Burn And The Risk For Esophageal Cancer
contributed by Kim Zapor, R.N., BSN, OCN, CBCN., Cancer AnswerLine nurse
Heartburn. It’s a symptom that many people experience on a regular basis. What many people don’t realize is that long-term heartburn can put them at risk for esophageal cancer. The esophagus is the long tube that connects the throat to the stomach. Reflux of stomach acid over the long haul can damage the lining of the esophagus, which can lead to cancer.
Dr. Mark Orringer, professor of thoracic surgery at the University of Michigan, and a pioneer in esophageal surgery, has seen a change over the last three decades in the type of patient developing esophageal cancer. Once primarily found in individuals who drank alcohol and smoked excessively, it is now seen in greater numbers with those suffering from obesity, coupled with reflux.
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Can Gerd Lead To Cancer
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Look For These Symptoms
Though its best to catch Barretts esophagus before it turns into cancer, its also important to be on the lookout for alarm symptoms. If you experience any of these, tell your doctor:
- New trouble swallowing
- New chest pain or pressure not related to your heart
- A sudden decrease in appetite and weight loss
- Night sweats
It’s important not to ignore long-term heartburn. More than half of people with Barretts esophagus have heartburn.
Cancer doesnt occur overnight. It starts with inflammation, pre-cancer and then turns into cancer. Stopping that cycle, by controlling your heartburn or treating a damaged esophagus, is the best way to prevent esophageal cancer.
Anxiety and stress can also make heartburn worse, so AdventHealth is ready to help you heal in body, mind and spirit.
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The Link Between Heartburn And Cancer
The cells lining the esophagus may change when exposed to acid for long periods of time. In an attempt to protect themselves from the acid, they begin to resemble the cells of the stomach. When this happens, itâs a condition known as Barrettâs esophagus.
Barrettâs esophagus is one of the biggest risk factors for developing esophageal cancer. Esophageal cancer is relatively rare, making up just 1% of new cancer cases. But, the survival rate is low. Esophageal cancer only has a 20% 5-year survival rate.
Why Is Gerd Linked To Cancer
GERD is believed to increase the risk of cancer of the esophagus because the acid that is regurgitated up from the stomach irritates and damages the esophageal lining. This acid can also reach the larynx, where the vocal cords are located, and can cause irritation and hoarseness.
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