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Obesity Could Lead To Esophageal Cancer Rate Increase

December 25, 2011

With global obesity levels rising, an increasing number of people find themselves suffering from acid reflux, which in turn could lead to a higher rate of those contracting esophageal cancer, according to a new study published last week in the journal Gut.

According to Steven Reinberg of USA Today, researchers from Norway have observed a nearly 50% increase in acid reflux — also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD — over the past decade.

By studying the health information of nearly 30,000 people who participated in a Norwegian health study from 1995 through 2009, they discovered a 30% increase in the number of people suffering from acid-reflux, a 47% spike in those who experienced GERD symptoms at least once a week, and a 24% rise in the number of those suffering from severe symptoms.

Jenny Hope of the Daily Mail adds that the latest research shows that the overall prevalence of those suffering from GERD, which occurs when stomach acid leaks into the esophagus and results in heartburn, jumped from 11.6% in 1995 through 1997 to 17.1% in 2006 through 2009.

The Norwegian researchers, including Dr. Eivind Ness-Jensen of the HUNT Research Center’s Department of Public Health and General Practice at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), have called obesity “the main attributable factor” and said that the phenomenon is not limited to Norway, but is occurring in the U.S. and other Western nations as well.

“The problem is that these symptoms are associated with adenocarcinoma of the lower esophagus,” Ness-Jensen told Reinberg on Friday. “What we are afraid of is increasing incidence of this cancer, which is increasing already. It might get worse in the future.”

He told USA Today that there aren’t many treatments currently available for this form of esophageal cancer, and that the prognosis is said to be poor for few who contract the disease.

Thus, a potential spike in adenocarcinoma cases is a cause for concern, and Ness-Jensen told Reinberg that he and his colleagues now plan to see if losing weight would reduce the risk of developing GERD, and ultimately, preventing the development of this deadly cancer.

The study also found that “women are more at risk than men of developing the condition” and that “middle-aged people suffer the most severe symptoms,” Hunt added. Furthermore, Professor Hugh Barr of the British Society of Gastroenterology’s (BGS) esophageal division told the Daily Mail that occasional GERD symptoms affect up to one out of every five people.

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Source: RedOrbit Staff & Wire Reports