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Published on Aug 01, 2011 by Edgar Snyder

Long-term Use of Heartburn Drugs May Increase Risk of Cancer

heartburn drugs

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers have found that certain drugs used to treat heartburn may increase patients' risk of developing cancer of the esophagus.

Drugs like Nexium, Prevacid, and Prilosec – known as proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs – have been prescribed to millions of Americans to control the production of stomach acid and to treat conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), heartburn, acid reflux disease, and peptic ulcers. But a new study suggests that long-term use of these medications may cause or increase the risk of adenocarcinoma, a deadly type of esophageal cancer.

Pitt researchers report that the occurrence of the cancer has risen six-fold from 1975 to 2001 – making it the fastest growing cancer in the U.S.

The study, which was published online by the journal Archives of Surgery, also suggests doing a screening endoscopy on patients with GERD, because only 5 percent of patients who develop the lethal cancer are detected by screening efforts. The other 95 percent are not diagnosed until the cancer moves into a more advanced stage.

Those who suffer from reflux typically have a flawed esophagus sphincter muscle, which allows stomach acids to leak into the esophagus. PPIs stop the stomach from producing acid but allow non-acid juices to flow into the esophagus without producing symptoms. They reduce symptoms, but they do not cure the disease.

Patients who have taken Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec, or another PPI for more than 10 years should check with their doctors to see if they should continue taking the drug. Do not stop taking any prescription medication before consulting a physician first.

For more information on medical conditions caused by dangerous medications, visit EdgarSnyder.com.

"Heartburn Meds Tied to Cancer." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. August 1, 2011.
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