THE LINK BETWEEN HEARTBURN AND CANCER
Heartburn occurs when acid splashes back up from the stomach into the esophagus, the long feeding tube that connects the stomach and throat, causing a burning sensation.
Over time, the persistent acid bath can cause normal skin-like cells in the esophagus to change into tougher, more acid-resistant cells of the type found in the stomach and intestine, a condition called Barrett’s esophagus. Once Barrett’s esophagus is diagnosed, patients have a 30- to 125-fold increased risk of developing esophageal cancer.
In research from scientists at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and the Dallas Veterans Affairs Medical Center, researchers discovered that people with acid reflux disease, particularly those with a complication of acid reflux called Barrett’s esophagus, have altered cells in their esophagus containing shortened telomeres, the ending sequences in DNA strands. Combined with related research, the findings indicate that the shortened sequences might allow other cells more prone to cancer to take over.