Treatment for severe heartburn prevents cancer
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Medical or surgical treatment of severe heartburn prevents cancer of the oesophagus, a study from Karolinska Institutet with almost one million Nordic patients reveals. The results are published in the scientific journal JAMA Oncology.

Pathological heartburn and acid reflux affects 10-20 per cent of the adult population. Long and severe reflux is the strongest risk factor for cancer of the oesophagus (type adenocarcinoma), an aggressive cancer that is difficult to treat.

Reflux is usually treated with medicine to make the stomach contents less acidic, which usually eliminates or reduces symptoms. One alternative is to have an operation (anti-reflux surgery) which prevents the stomach contents from coming up into the oesophagus. Previous studies have not conclusively demonstrated that these treatments prevent oesophageal cancer, but the studies have not been sufficiently large or had enough follow-up time to ensure that conclusions can be drawn on any long-term cancer-preventive effects.

In the present study, researchers used health data records from 1964 to 2014 from the five Nordic countries. Of the more than 940,000 patients with reflux in the study, about 895,000 received medical treatment and of those nearly 2,370 patients (0.3 per cent) developed cancer of the oesophagus during the follow-up period.

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