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Drugs used to treat acid reflux increase stomach cancer risk

Healthcare professionals are urged to exercise caution when prescribing proton pump inhibitors over long periods

Long-term use of proton pump inhibitors could significantly increase patients' risk of developing stomach cancer, researchers say.


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Research published in the journal Gut by academics at the University of Hong Kong and University College London compared the use of proton pump inhibitors with other drugs that limit acid production, known as H2 blockers, in 63,397 adults.

63,397

cases were looked at in the study

Source: Gut

Participants had been treated with triple therapy, combining proton pump inhibitors and antibiotics to kill off a bacteria known to fuel the condition called Helicobacter pylori (H pylori), between 2003 and 2012.

They were monitored until they either developed stomach cancer, died or the study ended in 2015.

During this period, 3,271 people took proton pump inhibitors for an average of almost three years, while 21,729 took H2 blockers.

Prescribing options

A total of 153 people developed stomach cancer. None of them tested positive for H pylori but all had long-standing problems with stomach inflammation, the study found.

While H2 blockers were found to have no link to a higher risk of stomach cancer, proton pump inhibitors were connected to a more than doubling of risk.

The study concluded that no firm cause and effect could be drawn, but said doctors should exercise caution when prescribing long-term proton pump inhibitors.


Cheung K et al (2017) Long-term proton pump inhibitors and risk of gastric cancer development after treatment for Helicobacter pylori: a population-based study. Gut. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2017-314605

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