Many people suffering with acid reflux disease, heart burn or stomach ulcers are prescribed Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI’s) as treatment. Harvard Medical School describes these medications, which include drugs such as Prilosec, Prilosec OTC, Zegerid, Prevacid, Protonix, Aciphex, Nexium and Dexilant, as the safest form of treatment for gastroesophageal diseases; however, recent research shows that there is an alarming link between patients taking PPI’s and a diagnosis of liver or pancreatic cancer.
PPI’s Linked to Pancreatic Cancer
According the American Cancer Association, pancreatic cancer makes up about 3% of cancer diagnoses in the United States, making it one of the rarer forms of cancer, affecting only 1 in 64 cancer-diagnosed people. Because pancreatic cancer is mostly asymptomatic in the early stages, it is often detected in advanced stages, when the cancer has spread to other organs. Currently, pancreatic cancer is responsible for about 7% of cancer-related deaths in the U.S., making it the 4th most deadly cancer diagnosis. Individuals using PPI medications are nine times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, according to a study published in the Kuwait Medical Journal. The study goes on to state that patients using PPIs develop a condition called hypergastrinemia, which can be linked to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. This is because there are gastrin receptors on pancreatic cells, and hypergastrinemia leads to excess gastrins in the blood. These findings led researchers to believe that this condition may cause the growth of pancreatic cells.
PPI’s Linked to Liver Cancer
A study done by Taipei Medical University has found that patients not diagnosed with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) who are using PPI’s long term are almost three times as likely to develop hepatocellular carcinoma, a type of liver cancer. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is not only one of the most common types of liver cancer, but also one of the deadliest types of cancer according to the National Health Institute, responsible for over 700,000 deaths each year worldwide. Like pancreatic cancer, liver cancer is mostly asymptomatic in the early stages and is often diagnosed in the advanced stage after damage to the liver has occurred. At this point, there is almost no effective treatment to improve survival. This study also discussed the potential carcinogenic effects of PPI use on cells, finding that a PPI was found to have a genetic expression comparable to that of well-known carcinogens in the liver. This means that using prescription PPI medication has the potential to alter or damage cells in a way that can lead to the onset of HCC.
Other Contributing Factors
It is important to note that underlying conditions such as diabetes, pancreatitis, Hepatitis B and C, GERD, respiratory illnesses (i.e COPD), cirrhosis, and hypertension are all risk factors for developing these cancers. Patients who have these underlying conditions, as well as those on aspirin or H-2 blockers (i.e. Zantac), are at an even higher risk of developing pancreatic or liver cancer. The conclusion of the current research is that there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that suggests the dose and general use of prescription PPI medications puts individuals at risk of developing dangerous cancers regardless of current health status.
We Can Help
If you or someone you know has been recently diagnosed with pancreatic or live cancer as a result of a prescribed PPI treatment, please reach out to us.