- Those who use proton pump inhibitors twice as likely to develop stomach cancer
- Risk of cancer increases the longer the drugs are used, scientists claim
- Suspected the pills create gastrin which triggers growth of cancerous cell
Indigestion pills taken by millions of Britons significantly increase the risk of stomach cancer, a major study has found.
Scientists say people who regularly use proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) – common drugs used to treat acid reflux – are twice as likely to develop the cancer.
And if people took the drugs long-term, the risk soared, rising five-fold after a year to more than eight-fold after three years of regularly taking the pills.
The scientists, from University College London and the University of Hong Kong, suspect the pills stimulate a hormone called gastrin, which triggers the growth of cancerous cells.
More than five million bottles and packets of PPIs – which include omeprazole and lansoprazole – are prescribed each year in England to treat gastroesophageal reflux, a severe form of heartburn. Many more Britons buy them over the counter at pharmacies without a prescription, or in corner shops and supermarkets.
The drugs are not recommended for long-term use, but doctors fear that because they are so readily available, people may take them without medical supervision for years.
More than five million bottles and packets of PPIs – which include omeprazole and lansoprazole – are prescribed each year in England to treat gastroesophageal reflux
Fears are growing about the health impacts of the drugs if taken for too long, with recent research linking sustained use to dementia, heart attacks and kidney problems. The new research, published in the BMJ journal Gut, involved 63,000 people in Hong Kong. At the beginning of the study, they were treated with antibiotics to kill bacteria called H. pylori, which is linked to stomach cancer.
The researchers did this to rule out the role of bacteria in the development of cancer, increasing their confidence that the PPI drugs were to blame.
The patients were then tracked for an average of seven years.
Fears are growing about the health impacts of the drugs if taken for too long, with recent research linking sustained use to dementia, heart attacks and kidney problems
Researchers found that those who took the pills at least weekly were more than twice as likely to develop stomach cancer during the study period compared to those who did not use the drugs.
For daily users, the risk increased 4.5 times, and the longer people used the drugs, the greater their risk, rising to an 8.3-fold greater risk for those who took the pills daily for at least three years.
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