Study: Esophageal cancer more common in whites
Popular antacids can mask symptoms
August 15, 1997
Web posted at: 6:38 p.m. EDT (2238 GMT)
From Reporter Aileen Pincus
PHILADELPHIA (CNN) -- Popular antacids used by millions
to treat heartburn may be masking a much more
serious ailment -- cancer of the esophagus, a new study
Researchers at Philadelphia's Allegheny University of the
Health Sciences found that as many as 15 percent of chronic
heartburn patients suffer from esophagus cancer, a once rare
form of cancer that has become increasingly more common among
If detected in time, pre-cancerous legions can be treated
before the disease spreads. But doctors at Allegheny said
their study shows that the disease often is detected only after
the cancer has set in.
"The frustrating issue is that it's very easy to diagnose and
so easy to determine if you're at risk with a simple
10-minute test." said Dr. James Reynolds of Allegheny.
The test, called endoscopy, enables doctors to detect
pre-cancerous legions in the esophagus -- the tube through
which food passes that connects the throat to the stomach.
They then can apply treatments to curb the disease.
The rate of esophageal cancer is increasing by 10 percent a
year in Caucasian men, with a small but significant increase
in white women. The rate has not increased in other racial
Doctors are now working to get the message out to men who
often are reluctant to go to the doctor for medical advice.
"We're interested in the gentlemen particularly, who continue
to work and say they're too busy to go the doctors and who
pop those medications and antacids over and over again,"
Cancer patient Fred Harm, 73, used to eat antacids like
candy, but then he learned he had esophageal cancer. He now
urges people to seek medical attention before it's too late.
"I would have come in earlier. I really would have," Harm