(HealthDay News) — Frequent heartburn is associated with a higher risk of cancers of the pharynx and larynx, which may be reduced by the use of antacids, according to a study published online May 23 in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Scott M. Langevin, Ph.D., from Brown University in Providence, R.I., and colleagues examined the association between self-reported heartburn history and medication use among 631 patients with laryngopharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (LPSCC; 468 with cancers of the pharynx and 163 with cancers of the larynx) and 1,234 matched control subjects.

The researchers found that, after controlling for demographic, behavioral, and clinical factors, including seropositivity for human papillomavirus 16 (HPV16), the risk of LPSCC was significantly higher among those with frequent heartburn who were neither heavy smokers nor heavy drinkers (odds ratio, 1.78). Among those with a history of heartburn, antacid use was associated with a significantly lower risk of LPSCC (odds ratio, 0.59) irrespective of smoking or drinking status, HPV16 status, or primary tumor site.

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“Our data show that gastric reflux is an independent risk factor for squamous cancers of the pharynx and larynx,” Langevin and colleagues conclude. “Further studies are needed to clarify the possible chemopreventive role of antacid use for patients with gastric reflux.”

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