Cancer fears as fatty diets trigger 50% surge in heartburn in just a decade
Obesity can cause a number of health problems including type 2 diabetes and heart disease
Obesity could be driving a 50 per cent rise in people suffering acid reflux over the last decade, research suggests.
Concern is mounting because the condition can trigger oesophageal cancer, which is also on the increase.
Reflux – where acid from the stomach leaks into the gullet, or oesophagus, causing heartburn – has been linked to obesity, diets high in fatty foods, alcohol and smoking.
The proportion of people suffering from it rose from 11.6 per cent in 1995-97 to 17.1 per cent in 2006-09, the latest study shows.
Women are more at risk than men of developing the condition, known medically as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease.
Middle-aged people suffer the most severe symptoms, according to the study of almost 30,000 people in Norway published in medical journal Gut.
The researchers, from Norway, Sweden and King”s College London, said: “The increasing prevalence of acid reflux is alarming, because it will most likely contribute to the increasing incidence of cancer of the oesophagus.”
Professor Hugh Barr, of the British Society of Gastroenterology”s oesophageal section, said occasional reflux affects as many as one in five people.
But persistent episodes of heartburn should be investigated.
Reflux is the type of cancer which killed Christopher Hitchens and is seen as a growing danger
Prof Barr said: “Having indigestion after a curry isn”t necessarily a cause for concern and about half of those with persistent reflux will not have any damage to their gullet.
“But we need to identify earlier people at risk of what is an epidemic of this type of cancer, and one that has so recently killed the writer Christopher Hitchens.”
Reflux sufferers are advised to lose weight or given acid-suppressing drugs.
The UK has the highest rate of oesophageal cancer in Europe.
Experts say that by not smoking or drinking alcohol, and by choosing a healthy diet, most of the 8,000 oesophageal cancer cases diagnosed each year could be prevented.