The risk for gastroesophageal reflux disease and cancer of the larynx, tonsils, and other areas of the upper aerodigestive tract was strongly associated in a longitudinal-based population study of the U.S. elderly population.

A total of 13,805 cases involving gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and malignancies of the upper aerodigestive tract (UADT) and 13,805 GERD cases with no UADT from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER)-Medicare linked database in patients aged 66 years and older from 2003 through 2011 were examined. Only those who had no malignancy before they were diagnosed with GERD were included in the study, which was published in JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery (doi: 10.1001/jamaoto.2017.2561.

Lead author Charles A. Riley, MD, of Tulane University in New Orleans, and his coauthors noted that previous studies had drawn conflicting conclusions about the link between GERD and UADT malignancies. To their knowledge, this is the first study to investigate UADT malignancies specifically in the elderly in the United States.

“The increased relative risk for laryngeal and pharyngeal cancers in this population suggests an opportunity for earlier detection and intervention,” Dr. Riley and his colleagues said.

For the study, they calculated the adjusted odds ratios (aOR) of cancer in six areas of the UADT in patients with GERD vs. patients who never had GERD: larynx (2.86), hypopharynx (2.54), oropharynx (2.47), tonsil (2.14), nasopharynx (2.04), and paranasal sinuses (1.40).

The study also evaluated the relative risk of malignancy with GERD and without GERD. “These data suggest that elderly patients with GERD in the United States are 3.47, 3.23, 2.88, and 2.37 times as likely as those without GERD to be diagnosed with laryngeal, hypopharyngeal, oropharyngeal and tonsillar cancers, respectively,” Dr. Riley and his associates wrote.

These findings may point to a need for a paradigm shift like that which led to the use of screening esophagogastroduodenoscopy for patients at risk of Barrett esophagus and esophageal cancer. “A similar screening platform may benefit those patients at higher risk for the development of malignancy of the UADT, though further research is necessary,” they said.

Dr. Riley and his coauthors reported having no financial disclosures.

Source: Riley C et al. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2017 Dec 21. doi: 10.1001/jamaoto.2017.2561.


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