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Could PPI Medication give you Cancer?

By Stu Leo︱Published October 29, 2017

Can PPIs cause stomach cancer?

The thought is frightening. Isn’t PPI medication supposed to prevent cancer? In this article, I will talk about how PPI use can lead to a condition called hypergastrinemia, which can, in turn, lead to cancer. I’ll break down what hypergastrinemia is, how it can develop into cancer, and the actual risk of hypergastrinemia progressing to cancer.

What is Hypergastrinemia?

Hypergastrinemia is a condition in which the body overproduces a stomach hormone called gastrin. Gastrin plays a pivotal role in the stomach by stimulating gastric acid and enzymes so we can digest food.

While gastrin is necessary for the stomach to function, an overabundance of it is not good. In fact, too much gastrin is associated with disease. Medical conditions like, H. Pylori and atrophic gastritis can also cause hypergastrinemia. (1)

PPIs can cause Hypergastrinemia and lead to Cancer

Long-term PPI use is associated with hypergastrinemia. By blocking the production of stomach acid, PPI medication causes the stomach hormone gastrin to increase to abnormal levels. (2)

Multiple studies have shown that too much gastrin in the body stimulates cancer growth. Long-term, severe hypergastrinemia, although rare, can cause gastric carcinoids, a slow-growing cancerous tumor.

Too much gastrin in the body can also lead to some of it binding to the esophagus. This also promotes tumor growth. (3)

Further, hypergastrinemia may also cause Barrett’s Esophagus to morph into cancer, the very thing PPI medication is thought to prevent. (4)

Your Risk for Hypergastrinemia

The studies on whether or not hypergastrinemia can be directly linked to the development of cancer in humans are mixed.

Most studies indicate there’s no definite correlation between cancer and hypergastrinemia, however, one study done on rats showed that gastrin can speed up the development of cancer. (5) (6)

Studies on different animals like dogs and hamsters have not produced the same results. (6)

It seems the risk of getting cancer from long-term PPI use is relatively low when you’re looking at human studies. In addition, it seems that other lifestyle factors can influence your chance of getting cancer.

But with that said, I would be cautious. So far, we know that overproduction of gastrin can technically lead to the development of cancerous cells.

And the fact that female rats develop cancerous tumors after PPI use should concern us. (7)

After all, humans and rats share the same basic physiology and organ function.