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Major clinical study rejects cancer safety fears of most common heartburn treatment
Date:9/9/2009

Fears about the cancer causing effects of the second most prescribed group of drugs in the Western world have been put to rest, following the largest ever study into their use.

'Proton pump inhibitors' (PPI) are the most commonly used treatment for chronic acid reflux, or 'heartburn', a painful burning sensation in the chest, neck and throat which is experienced by almost a third of people in developed countries.

Regular and prolonged heartburn is known to cause 'benign oesophagitis', a reversible inflammation of the gullet. However if left untreated a condition called Barrett's Oesophagus (BE) occurs in around 10 per cent of sufferers, which can in turn develop into a potentially fatal cancer called oesophageal adenocarcinoma.

BE is twice as common in the UK as it is in the USA, and oesophageal cancer rates in the UK are the highest in the world; up to four times more common than in other European countries.

Despite their excellent safety record, it was unclear if long-term use of PPIs to reduce the discomfort of heartburn could increase the risk of developing either BE or the spread of the associated cancer.

New research carried out at Queen Mary, University of London and Leicester Royal Infirmary, has given the most conclusive evidence yet that this is not the case. The work is published in the peer reviewed journal Gut.

Professor Janusz Jankowski, who co-authored the study, said: "This is one of the most detailed studies investigating both the laboratory and clinical side of proton pump inhibitor drugs. As a consequence we are now better able to inform patients of the good benefit/risk ratio of this commonly prescribed therapy."

Tests carried out during the two-year study looked at tissue sampled from the oesophagus lining of ninety volunteers, each of whom were given PPI drugs at either a high or low dosage. Researchers found there was no difference in the rate at which BE developed, n
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Contact: Simon Levey
s.levey@qmul.ac.uk
44-207-882-5404
Queen Mary, University of London
Source:Eurekalert

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