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May 24, 2013

Reflux Increases Risk of Throat Cancer by 78%

Brown University researchers found that frequent heartburn was an independent risk factor for not only esophageal cancer but also cancer of the throat and vocal cords. This conclusion was based on a large population study involving 631 patients with throat cancer and 1,234 without throat cancer as a control group.

The study group also did not heavily smoke, drink, or have HPV (other independent risk factors for throat cancer).

Individuals with frequent heartburn were found to have a 78% increased risk of developing throat cancer. What researchers also found was that taking antacids for reflux (but not proton pump inhibitors or H2 blockers) seemed to protect against the development of throat cancer by 41% in patients with frequent heartburn.



The explanation for how reflux can cause throat cancer is similar to how it can also cause esophageal cancer. With repetitive mucosal injury by gastric juices to the delicate lining of the throat, there is a cycle of healing and injury that may eventually trigger cancer development. Patients with reflux that reaches the throat level have a condition called LPR or laryngopharyngeal reflux. Although symptoms may be similar to the more common GERD, it is not unusual for patients to experience only throat symptoms without the heartburn. Such atypical symptoms include:

Chronic cough
Phlegmy throat
Chronic throat clearing
Vocal cord dysfunction
Globus pharyngeus

It is also notable that it takes far less reflux episodes in the throat region compared to the esophagus in order to trigger mucosal damage... it takes fewer than THREE episodes per WEEK! [link]

In any case, more research is needed to determine at what point cancer risk increases in individuals with LPR, what type of reflux (acid?, non-acid?, pepsin?, bile?) triggers cancer concern, to what degree of reflux prevention is required to protect against cancer development.

Also more needs to be done to figure out why antacids help reduce cancer risk, but not other types of reflux medications.



References:
Gastric Reflux Is an Independent Risk Factor for Laryngopharyngeal Carcinoma. Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention. Published Online First May 23, 2013; doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-13-0183

The otolaryngologic manifestations of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): a clinical investigation of 225 patients using ambulatory 24-hour pH monitoring and an experimental investigation of the role of acid and pepsin in the development of laryngeal injury. Laryngoscope. 1991 Apr;101(4 Pt 2 Suppl 53):1-78.

Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids. Google+ Christopher Chang, MD Bio

1 comment:

  1. I have LPR and my tongue is so nasty what can I do for it?

    ReplyDelete

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