GERD/LPR + beer: does the cancer risk compound?
July 29, 2016 11:51 AM   Subscribe

YANMD, but: I have some sort of reflux-ish disorder, probably either GERD or LPR. Had it for years. I'm also an avid beer drinker. Recently, I've been reading about the link between alcohol and head/neck cancers and it's freaking me out a little. Advice?

I'm specifically concerned about combining the already-increased risk of throat cancer from reflux with the additional risk from drinking alcohol. Do they compound? For the record, I've never noticed an increase of reflux or anything else while drinking. At the very least, I'm definitely going to be sticking to the "safe" government limit of no more than 1.5 standard drinks a day on average (and probably a lot less), but I'm wondering if it's still a bad idea. Is there any research on this particular intersection of ailments?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (4 answers total)
In a prospective study, drinking up to 1 alcoholic beverage a day was actually associated with lower risk of H&N cancer than abstaining completely (of course, other factors weren't controlled for, so it's always possible that people who abstain from alcohol have some other risk factor). People who drink 3 or more alcoholic beverages do have an increased risk of head and neck cancer - and it's in some overlapping sites where GERD patients have an increased risk. I'm not sure if anyone has done the right study to see how GERD+alcohol consumption impacts the risk factor.
posted by fermezporte at 12:16 PM on July 29, 2016

it's likely that the risk does compound because they don't seem to be the same cancers. reflux is associated with adenocarcinoma, but there is no evidence for a connection between alcohol and adenocarcinoma.

so, since they cause different problems, the risks are likely additive.

disclaimer: not a medical doctor.
posted by andrewcooke at 9:40 PM on July 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

oh, it just struck me that i may have misunderstood your question.

if you were asking "does drinking amplify the risk from reflux?" (somehow make the reflux even more damaging than it would be in a teetotaller) then no, it does not.

but if you were asking "given that i have reflux anyway, does drinking increase the risk of cancer?" then yes, it does - drinking has additional, different risks related to cancer.

[all assuming my previous comment is correct. same disclaimer applies.]
posted by andrewcooke at 9:45 PM on July 29, 2016

The severity and frequency of reflux episodes can be affected by the total amount of food consumed, or at least it is in my family, and beers are calories . So if your beers are additional calories rather replacing something else then it is quite likely that beer will exacerbate your reflux. Also carbonation can contribute to bloating which can exacerbate reflux.

It sounds like you have self-diagnosed your reflux/GERD. Go see a doctor and find out for sure what is going on. There are medications and treatments available.
posted by srboisvert at 12:45 PM on July 30, 2016

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