Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), one of the most commonly used drugs the U.S., have been linked to an increased risk of stomach cancer, according to new research conducted by the University College London. The new research backs earlier research that linked the drugs to stomach cancer in previous studies.
The heartburn and acid reflux medication sold both by prescription as well as over the counter, is often taken for months – or even years – despite the recommended maximum time-frame of two to four weeks.
The latest study found that people who took PPIs for two weeks were twice as likely as those who didn’t take the drugs to develop stomach cancer in the following seven years. A year-long use of PPIs put users at a five times greater risk of stomach cancer. And those who took the drug for three years had an eight-fold risk of developing the deadly disease.
Researchers believe that PPIs stimulate a hormone called gastrin, which can trigger the growth of cancer cells in the stomach. But a study by microbiologists at Stanford and the University of Oregon – which also linked PPI use to stomach cancer – found that the drug may encourage the spread of helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that chronically infects the stomachs of 50 percent of people. This infection can lead to peptic ulcers as well as stomach cancer.
PPIs include the drug omeprazole, which is sold under the brand name Prilosec; lansoprazole, which is sold under the brand name Prevacid; and pantoprazole, sold as Protonix. The drug are used to treat heartburn and acid reflux as well as more serious stomach acid conditions including gastroesophaeal reflux disease, or GERD. Long-term use is often recommended for refractory GERD, Barrett’s esophagus, Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, idiopathic chronic ulcer, and bleeding prevention in some patients.