Harvard Health Letter

Ask the doctor: Using PPIs to fight cancer risk.

Q. Do PPI drugs for stomach acid reduce the risk of cancer in people (like me) with Barrett's esophagus?

A. Probably so. But before explaining why, I'll define some terms.
Proton-pump inhibitor (PPI) drugs—such as omeprazole (Prilosec), pantoprazole (Protonix), and lansoprazole (Prevacid)—powerfully suppress stomach acid. These drugs have been a boon for many people with heartburn caused by acid reflux (also called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD).

Chronic acid reflux irritates the lining of the lower esophagus (the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach), and that may in turn lead to Barrett's esophagus, a change in the lining of the esophagus near where it attaches to the stomach. That change is a precancerous condition: people with Barrett's esophagus have a higher risk of developing cancer of the esophagus. In fact, there's increasing evidence that chronic irritation and inflammation of any tissue makes it more vulnerable to developing cancer.

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