Most heartburn sufferers don’t face higher cancer risk

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Heartburn is more than just a nuisance; it’s a common health problem that affects many people.

Known in medical circles as “reflux disease,” it happens when stomach acid flows back into the food pipe, causing discomfort and a burning sensation.

For years, experts have warned that this could increase the risk of a serious type of cancer in the food pipe known as esophageal cancer.

But a new large-scale study from Scandinavia brings some welcome news: most people with heartburn don’t actually have a higher risk of this cancer, as long as a specific type of medical checkup shows that their food pipe is normal.

Why Were People Worried?

Heartburn, or reflux disease, is not just uncomfortable; it’s also known to be a risk factor for esophageal cancer.

This cancer starts in the food pipe, also known as the esophagus, which is the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach.

What made this especially concerning was that many people who have heartburn symptoms frequently visit doctors and undergo a procedure that checks the condition of their food pipe.

This check-up, known as gastroscopy, can reveal any changes in the lining of the food pipe. When such changes are found, they can be a sign that cancer may develop.

Because of this, people with heartburn symptoms often undergo repeated check-ups, which can be stressful and expensive.

What Did the Study Show?

The new research, led by scientists from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, studied health records of more than 285,000 people in Sweden, Denmark, and Finland who had heartburn but showed no changes in their food pipe lining during these check-ups.

They were monitored for up to 31 years to see if they developed esophageal cancer.

The researchers found that these people did not have an increased risk of esophageal cancer compared to the general public.

This is a game-changer because it suggests that if your food pipe looks normal during this check-up, you probably don’t need to keep getting checked all the time for cancer risk.

This should be a huge relief for anyone who suffers from heartburn.

However, the study also found that those with changes in their food pipe lining did have a higher risk of developing this type of cancer, which is in line with what doctors have thought for years.

What Does This Mean for You?

If you’re one of the many people who suffer from heartburn, this is good news. Dr. Dag Holmberg, the lead author of the study, said that these findings could guide family doctors in how they treat heartburn sufferers.

Specifically, if you’ve had a gastroscopy that shows your food pipe is normal, you probably don’t need to keep having these check-ups regularly, which can save you both worry and money.

It’s worth noting that the scientists are planning to do more research to figure out what else might increase cancer risk in people with heartburn.

But for now, it’s comforting to know that most people with this common health issue may not need to be as concerned about its long-term effects as previously thought.

In conclusion, if you or someone you know has been living with the stress of heartburn and the fear of a higher cancer risk, this research brings welcome news.

It means fewer stressful and costly medical check-ups for a lot of people, and it provides important new guidance for doctors treating heartburn sufferers.

So the next time you feel the burn, you might just have a little less to worry about.

If you care about cancer, please read studies that mammograms over-diagnose 1 in 7 breast cancers in the U.S, and new way to increase the longevity of cancer survivors.

For more information about cancer, please see recent studies about sweeteners linked to increased cancer risk, and results showing new way to supercharge cancer-fighting T cells.

The research findings can be found in The BMJ.

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