Heartburn: Is It A Form of Cancer?

When heartburn is linked to cancer

| Acid reflux may be tied to lethal esophageal cancer

(Stephen Perrine, AARP Bulletin) Many people don’t realize that common heartburn symptoms can both lead to and mask something more serious.

One out of 5 Americans experience heartburn or acid reflux on a weekly basis; 40 percent of us deal with it at least once a month.

In many cases, we just blame the hot sauce and take an over-the-counter medicine to remedy it. Perhaps it’s time to think differently.

Esophageal adenocarcinoma — cancer of the lining of the soft tube that delivers food and drink from the mouth to the stomach — has increased sevenfold since the early 1970s, says Paul Oberstein, director of the gastrointestinal medical oncology program at NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center in Manhattan.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 15,850 Americans will die of esophageal cancer this year. Eighty-five percent of esophageal cancers are found in people 55 and older; roughly four times as many men get the disease as women.

“It’s one of the fastest-growing issues we have in our population,” says David Odell, assistant professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, a thoracic surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and lead investigator on a study of esophageal cancer funded by the American Cancer Society.

The cancer’s increase has paralleled the rise of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), the medical name for when you have bouts of acid reflux two or more times per week.

GERD has several causes, led by obesity, a tendency toward large meals and a high-stress lifestyle.

But many people don’t realize that common heartburn symptoms can both lead to and mask something more serious. Read the full story at AARP Bulletin.