Acid reflux may raise risk of cancer of larynx (Reuters)

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by Jacki Donaldson, 7 Oct 2006

Studies exist that link acid-reflux conditions to cancer of the larynx -- or voice box -- but authors of a new study say they all suffer shortcomings in methodology.

The new study, published in the American Journal of Medicine, was intended to make up for these shortcomings by comparing 96 men and women with laryngeal cancer to a group of adults without the disease. All participants were matched by age, gender, and ethnicity -- three of the most important risk factors for this cancer. Overall, the study found people with GERD -- gastroesophageal reflux disease -- were twice as likely to develop laryngeal cancer, compared to those without the condition. GERD has long been considered a possible risk factor for this cancer, mostly because GERD is common among people with the cancer. More definitive studies are on the horizon.

GERD, which occurs when the muscle of the bottom of the esophagus fails to close properly, allowing stomach acids to leak into the esophagus, is also linked to esophageal cancer.

As for whether GERD is in fact a risk factor for laryngeal cancer, "definitive studies are yet to come," said Dr. Michael Vaezi, a gastroenterologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville and the study's lead author.

Still, with the current findings, there is growing evidence that GERD may contribute to the cancer.

Vaezi told Reuters Health that in an earlier study, he and his colleagues found that laryngeal cancer patients who took acid-suppressing medication had lower odds of the cancer coming back -- an indication, he noted, that GERD may contribute not only to the initial development of laryngeal cancer but to its recurrence as well.

SOURCE: American Journal of Medicine, September 2006.

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