Suffering From GERD Could Actually Increase Your Risk For Specific Cancers

Omnia Health Insights

GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is common all over the world, specifically in the United States. A total of 27.8 percent of the population are affected by it. Doctors have treated thousands of patients on a daily basis, and this may have become a problem.

Hence, health experts and scientists have opted to look for into GERD. In their studies, they have come across a shocking finding – GERD may actually be linked to higher risks for cancer in the larynx and esophagus. Moreover, a recent study just corroborated their discover.

In the newest study, experts found strong evidence of the link. Their study has since appeared in the journal Cancer. And the data gathered adds to the body of evidence they have to date. If their results are, in fact. confirmed, they could “inform clinical surveillance of GERD patients and suggest new avenues for prevention of these malignancies.”


Symptoms of GERD

So, what exactly is GERD? To start with, this is a type of chronic gastrointestinal disease. Sufferers often feel the contents of their stomach travel all the way up to their esophagus. Researchers also looked into the number of patients who have reported experiencing GERD, and they have estimated that it affects 18.1 percent to 27.8 percent of those living in the US.

People suffering from GERD experience any or all of the following:

  1. Heartburn
  2. Regurgitation
  3. Chest pains
  4. Nausea
  5. Difficulty swallowing
  6. Persistent cough.


When GERD Occurs

GERD becomes a health problem when your lower esophageal sphincter becomes weak. It also occurs when the sphincter relaxes at the wrong time. GERD happens to those who are overweight, who suffer from obesity, who are pregnant, and those who smoke.

Researchers have connected the symptoms of GERD to laryngeal squamous cell carcinoma (LSCC). LSCC is a kind of cancer found in the aerodigestive tract. This portion in our bodies includes the organs and tissues found in the respiratory and upper digestive tract.

The authors of the latest study are aware of the fact that earlier findings have not been very consistent.

They say, “Most previous studies have been limited by size, study design, or insufficient control for important potential confounders, [such as] tobacco use and alcohol consumption, limiting the strength of the inference.”

In addition, there have been zero studies made on the possible link between GERD and esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC), yet another kind of aerodigestive tract cancer.


Drawing Out data

Because there have been no studies made to prove the link between GERD  and cancer, the researchers conducted a prospective study. They drew out data from the NIH‐AARP Diet and Health Study. This study got off the ground in 90s. They made use of questionnaires sent to the members of the American Association of Retired Persons, or AARP.

The participants chosen then were between 50 to 71 years old. They made use of individuals living in the US. They gathered a total of 490,605 responses from participants, and 92.6 percent of then identified themselves as non-Hispanic white.

In the questionnaire, the researchers asked about the different risk factors related to GERD. They pointed out the following:

  1. Alcohol intake
  2. Tobacco use
  3. Daily diet
  4. Person’s body shape
  5. Medical issues

They then cross-checked the data gathered with the GERD-related data from Medicare. They also made estimations of the presence of GERD for those outside Medicare.

The team gathered all these and estimated that 23.7 percent of the sample they looked into actually had a history of GERD. After which, they used data from state cancer registries to dive even further and see if any of them had developed LSCC, ESCC, or a type of cancer called esophageal adenocarcinoma (EADC) within the next 16 years.

Nursing Center

The Link between GERD and Cancer

The results were actually quite startling. The researchers found that participants who suffered from GERD were twice as likely to develop cancer. They discovered these from the questionnaires they filled out in the following years.

This relationship between GERD and cancer was apparent even after they took potentially confounding factors into account. The factors included tobacco use and alcohol consumption. Across the state, the researchers made an estimate and stated how 16.92 percent of LSCC cases and 17.32 percent of ESCC cases were actually those individuals aged 50 to 71 years who suffered from GERD.

As with many studies out there, this also had its limitations. For one thing, they estimated the presence of GERD based on medical claims. They didn’t fully take into account the people who treat their illness with over-the-counter drugs. For another thing, because they relied heavily on Medicare data, this meant that there was significant number of participants who had no record of GERD. They deduced only from the data that was available.

Dr. Christian C. Abnet, a senior investigator at the National Cancer Institute and the corresponding author of the study, is aware of this stark truth and said, “This study alone is not sufficient to result in specific actions by the public. Additional research is needed to replicate these findings and establish GERD as a risk factor for cancer and other diseases.Future studies are needed to evaluate whether treatments aimed at GERD symptoms will alter the apparent risks.”