Heartburn Pills Raise Risk of Liver Cancer

Heartburn pills like proton pump inhibitors, PPIs, are associated with a number of serious side effects including renal disease, early dementia and heart problems. A recent study shows that the use of heartburn pills like Prilosec and Zegerid increases the risk of primary liver cancer by 80%. The incidence of primary liver cancer has recently increased in the US. Liver cancer is the fifth leading cancer in men and the ninth in women and is associated with very low 5-year survival rate.

The mechanism of action behind this association remains unknown. Chronic acid suppression leads to increased gastrin blood levels. Gastrin is known to stimulate liver tumor growth. Furthermore, chronic acid suppression promotes intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Intestinal bacteria and any potential carcinogenic substances they may secrete may cross the gut barrier and end up in the liver. In a study published by Llorente et al demonstrated this phenomenon in mouse models and humans in a study published in 2017 in Nature Communications.  The authors showed that chronic acid suppression in acid reflux patients increase liver inflammation by promoting intestinal bacterial overgrowth and increased translocation of microbial products from intestinal lumen to liver.

Irrespective of mechanism of action, gastric acid plays an important role in normal gastrointestinal physiology. Acid reflux is not associated with increased gastric acid secretion. The root cause of acid reflux is a faulty anti-reflux barrier. Heartburn pills do not address the underlying pathophysiology of acid reflux and chronic heartburn pill use for severe acid reflux disease can no longer be considered an effective and safe solution.

If you suffer from acid reflux disease contact our reflux specialists at Houston heartburn and let them alleviate your symptoms for good.