Got Heartburn? It Could Lead to Head & Neck Cancers

Image: Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi

In love with your alcohol, peppers, orange juice, chocolate, and coffee? Overindulgence of our favorite things just might lead to cancer. Wait, what? Yes! Among the most common food and drinks that trigger heartburn are truly in our everyday seasonings, desserts, and beverages. Millions of American seniors suffer the discomfort of chronic acid reflux. Now, new research suggests the condition might raise their odds for even more dangerous foes – head and neck cancers.

The research can’t prove cause-and-effect, and the odds of any one person with chronic heartburn developing one of these relatively rare cancers remains low, experts noted.

But the study of nearly 28,000 Americans over the age of 65 did show a heightened risk.

Overall, a history of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) – the clinical term for chronic heartburn – was linked to nearly triple the odds of developing cancers of the voice box (larynx); about a 2.5 greater odds for cancers of the pharynx (top of the throat); a doubling of risk for cancers of the tonsils; and a 40 percent higher odds for cancers in the sinuses.

Head and neck cancers of the respiratory and upper digestive tracts cause more than 360,000 deaths worldwide each year, the researchers noted.

The new study was led by Dr. Edward McCoul, of the Ochsner Clinic Foundation in New Orleans, and published Dec. 21 in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery.