Reflux Medications Linked to Esophageal Cancer
Last month, Cancer Epidemiology published a study showing that using proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) like Prevacid, Prilosec or Nexium can raise the risk of esophageal cancer. This is the latest study showing a cancer link between the acid reflux medications. Multiple studies have already shown that these medications can cause chronic kidney disease, acute interstitial nephritis, chronic liver disease, and stomach cancer.
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are reflux medications (Prevacid, Prilosec, Nexium, etc.) that work by reducing the amount of stomach acid made by glands in the lining of the stomach. Many use PPIs to prevent Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), to heal inflammation of the esophagus and to prevent complications until the esophagus is healed. However, the warning label says that PPIs should only be used short term. In fact, long-term use can produce a variety of dangerous side effects.
On February 22, 2018, Cancer Epidemiology published a study led by Dr. Nele Brusselaers and his team at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm. The study used data from four national registers in Sweden to identify almost 800,000 patients taking PPIs. They found that those using PPIs had a near double rate of developing esophageal cancer than those who did not. Unlike the other cancers mentioned, researchers found that even using PPIs for a short amount of time still caused esophageal cancer.
Other Cancers and Side Effects
A study in Gut showed a link between long-term use of PPIs and gastric cancer. Researchers found that the risk of stomach cancer was proportionate to how long and how users took PPIs. In fact, the risk increased up to eight times. This risk increases for people infected with the bacteria Helicobacter pylori. Studies link this bacterium to stomach cancer. Eliminating the bacteria does lower the risk of stomach cancer. However, even after a doctor treats the bacteria, many people still develop stomach cancer.
Also, JAMA showed 20-50% of PPI users have a higher risk of chronic kidney disease compared to nonusers. Plus, there is a 5 times greater risk of developing the deadly infection Acute Interstitial Nephritis (AIN). AIN is a drug-induced bacterial infection of the kidneys. In nearly all cases of AIN, PPIs caused it. The treatment is either drug removal, dialysis or a kidney transplant. However, PPIs have a high rebound rate. This means that when the drug is stopped most people have such a high dependency on it that they must continue to use it just to feel better. The cycle continues until patients end up on dialysis or death.
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