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Gastric Reflux Is an Independent Risk Factor for Laryngopharyngeal Carcinoma

Mon, Jun 10, 2013

Oral Cancer News

Scott M. Langevin1,2,Dominique S. Michaud1,Carmen J. Marsit4,5,Heather H. Nelson6,7,Ariel E. Birnbaum3,Melissa Eliot1,Brock C. Christensen4,5,Michael D. McClean8, and Karl T. Kelsey1,2


Background: Gastric reflux can reach into the upper airway, inducing cellular damage in the epithelial lining. This condition is believed to be a risk factor for development of laryngopharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (LPSCC), although the literature is conflicting.

Methods: To better clarify this relationship, we assessed the association of self-reported heartburn history and medication use among 631 patients with LPSCCs and 1234 control subjects (frequency-matched on age, gender, and town of residence) enrolled as part of a population-based case–control study of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma in the greater Boston area.

Results: After adjusting for age, gender, race, smoking, alcohol consumption, HPV16 seropositivity, education, and body mass index, subjects reporting a history of frequent heartburn and who were neither a heavy smoker nor heavy drinker had a significantly elevated risk of LPSCCs [OR, 1.78; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.00–3.16]. Among those with a history of heartburn, there was an inverse association between antacid use and LPSCCs relative to those never taking heartburn medication (OR, 0.59; 95% CI, 0.38–0.93) that remained consistent when analyzed by smoking/drinking status, HPV16 status, or by primary tumor site.

Conclusions: Our data show that gastric reflux is an independent risk factor for squamous cancers of the pharynx and larynx. Further studies are needed to clarify the possible chemopreventive role of antacid use for patients with gastric reflux.

Impact: Elucidation of additional risk factors for head and neck cancer can allow for risk stratification and inform surveillance of high-risk patients. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev; 22(6); 1061–8. ©2013 AACR.

This article is featured in Highlights of This Issue, p. 1005

  • Received February 15, 2013.
  • Revision received March 28, 2013.
  • Accepted April 5, 2013.

©2013 American Association for Cancer Research.


*This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.


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