WEDNESDAY, Dec. 21 (HealthDay News) -- As the obesity epidemic
spreads around the world more people are suffering from acid
reflux, likely increasing the number of those who will develop
esophageal cancer, a new study suggests.
In Norway, the prevalence of acid reflux, also called
gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), has risen almost 50 percent
in the past 10 years, say researchers led by Dr. Eivind
Ness-Jensen, from the HUNT Research Center's Department of Public
Health and General Practice at the Norwegian University of Science
and Technology in Levanger.
The increasing number of people who are obese is "the main
attributable factor," he said.
Ness-Jensen said the same trend of rising GERD symptoms is
happening in the United States and all Western countries.
"The problem is that these symptoms are associated with adenocarcinoma of the lower esophagus," Ness-Jensen said. "What we are afraid of is increasing incidence of this cancer, which is increasing already. It might get worse in the future."
There are few treatments for this cancer and the prognosis is
"very poor," Ness-Jensen said. "Luckily, very few people get it,
but it is increasing quite rapidly."
It is possible that losing weight could reduce the risk of
developing GERD and esophageal cancer, Ness-Jensen added. "That's
our next study," he said.
The study appears in the Dec. 21 online edition of the medical
The team collected data on almost 30,000 people who took part in
the Norwegian Nord-Trondelag Health Study from 1995 to 2009.
Over that time, the prevalence of those with GERD symptoms
increased 30 percent and the number of those with severe symptoms
increased 24 percent, the researchers found.
Those who had GERD symptoms at least once a week went up 47
percent, they add.
Both men and women of all ages experienced an increase in GERD.
However, the most severe symptoms were mostly among middle-aged
people, Ness-Jensen's group found.
Among those with the most severe symptoms, 98 percent took
medicine to suppress the symptoms, compared with 31 percent of
those with mild symptoms, the researchers noted.
Those least likely to have GERD were women under 40, but women
were more likely to develop the condition as they aged. Severe
symptoms were seen mostly in those aged 60 to 69.
About 2 percent of those with GERD saw their symptoms
spontaneously disappear. This occurred mostly among women younger
than 40, the researchers noted.
Dr. Daniel Sussman, an assistant professor of gastroenterology
at the University of Miami School of Medicine, commented that
"symptoms of reflux are increasing in the United States, partly
because patients notice it more and doctors are better at noticing
it and treating it."
Most important, lifestyle, diet and obesity are causing the
increase in reflux symptoms, he said. "My suspicion is that obesity
is the biggest contributor to that," Sussman said.
The biggest side effect of GERD is its effect on the patient's
quality of life, Sussman said. He said that of course, it's also a
risk factor for esophageal cancer.
Sussman said that there is evidence that losing weight will help
improve reflux symptoms and lower the risk for cancer.
For more information on acid reflux, visit the
U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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