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 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)

Perhaps most troubling though, is the fact that hypergastrinemia can 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 is linked to the development of cancer in humans are mixed. Most studies indicate that there’s no significant correlation between cancer and hypergastrinemia, however, one study done on rats show 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 that 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 various other lifestyle factors can influence your chance of getting cancer.

But with that said, we should be cautious. So far, we know that an overproduction of gastrin can technically lead to the development of cancerous cells. The fact that female rats develop cancerous tumors after PPI use should concern us. (7) After all, humans and rats do have the same basic physiology and organ function.

To be clear, I’m not saying PPIs are bad all the time for all people. Those with esophagitis or Barrett’s Esophagus can certainly benefit from them. But the fact that long-term PPI use can lead to cancer development should cause us to think twice before committing to PPI medication for life. We need to be careful, ask good questions, and think critically for ourselves.

Final Thoughts

Do PPIs really work for you? Do you really need to take them? If you still get acid reflux/LPR while on PPIs, why take them at all? What’s the use?

You should consult with your doctor to confirm that you really have acid reflux/LPR and talk about holistic reflux treatment, especially if PPIs aren’t helping you at all.

*This post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure here.

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