The studies are mostly based on epidemiologic data -- information collected from a particular population, Vaezi explained. With these types of studies, it's difficult to weed out "confounding" factors that may skew the results, he said. What's more, he added, the associations reported in many of the studies are weak.
Altman said he is mostly concerned about high-dose and long-term users of the drugs because their increased exposures boost the odds that they'll experience some unintended consequence. He's also worried about people who continue to use PPIs but don't get better.
"They may not have acid reflux, or they may already have a more severe complication of acid reflux than they're aware of," he said.
Patients who have concerns about the use of these drugs should speak with their physicians, Vaezi said. But he also said that people need to recognize that the findings of these studies merely suggest an association with a particular outcome -- not a cause.
"The message to the public is, 'Let's not overreact,'" he said.
Find out more about heartburn at the American Gastroenterological Association.
SOURCES: Kenneth W. Altman, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor, otolaryngology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York City; David A. Johnson, M.D., professor, medicine, and chief, gastroenterology, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, and past president, American College of Gastroenterology; Michael F. Vaezi, M.D., Ph.D., professor, medicine, director, Center for Swallowing and Esophageal Disorders, and clinical director, gastroenterology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tenn.; November 2009 Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery
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