Reflux - the fire hazard inside
Although it is well recognized that sunburn can lead to skin cancer, the same is not true of heartburn and oesophageal cancer.
The reasons for this are multiple but include:
(a) the fact that it is easier to see skin problems than internal ones
(b) that everyone experiences some reflux sometime so it can be hard to know when it is abnormal and finally,
(c) because there is less public information about this compared to, for example, heart disease, bowel cancer or strokes.
This last reason is the driving motivation behind Red Dolphin. As ever, prevention is better than a cure, so raising the level of awareness of the importance of heartburn may help to lead to an adoption of a lifestyle that reduces its incidence in the first place as well as encourage people with the symptom to seek help earlier.
It is a little known fact in the general public that having longstanding (over 10 years) and frequent (over three times a week) symptoms of heartburn increases ones risk of oesophageal cancer by over 40-fold: a huge increase that it makes sense to try and prevent through lifestyle changes as the treatments for the cancer are still very invasive, unpleasant and by no means fully effective.
The numbers speak for themselves:
Risk of oesophageal cancer compared to general population:
'Recurrent reflux symptoms' (weekly, under 10 years):
7.7 times the normal risk
'Long-standing reflux symptoms' (3x a week, more than 10 years):
43.5 times the normal risk
Reference: Lagergren J. NEJM 1999; 340:825-31.