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GERD in Men Could Lead to Esophageal Cancer

By HERWriter
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Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic condition of the digestive system. While GERD is slightly more common in women, it is significantly more serious for men.

When we eat, food travels from the mouth through a tube called the esophagus into the stomach. At the top of the stomach there is a valve which is supposed to keep the contents of the stomach from flowing backward up the esophagus. GERD occurs when food, liquids, and acid from the stomach get past this valve and backwash up into the esophagus. Symptoms of GERD include:

• Full feeling behind the breastbone which may feel as though food is stuck in the esophagus.
• Heartburn – burning pain in the chest under the breastbone, sometimes accompanied by a sour taste in the mouth. This pain may get worse if you bend over, lie down, or eat. It is often worse at night and may go away if you take antacids.
• Nausea after eating
• Difficulty swallowing
• Sore throat or hoarseness

Stomach acid in GERD can damage the lining of the esophagus which can cause inflammation and pain.

In general, women are slightly more likely to have GERD than men. Women have a shorter esophagus than men, and many women seem to feel more pain in connection with inflammation or distention of the esophagus than men. But men produce more stomach acid, especially when standing up, than women, which make GERD more serious for men. Women also have higher levels of a blood protein that helps protect and repair the lining of the esophagus which can make GERD less severe in women. Women who are pregnant have a higher risk for GERD due to high levels of the hormone progesterone which affects muscle contractions in the esophagus. (Legato)

GERD can also cause more serious conditions including Barrett’s esophagus. In this condition, cells in the esophagus are replaced with cells like those in the stomach and intestines. Barrett’s esophagus is considered to be a pre-cancerous condition, which means people who have the condition are more likely to develop cancer of the esophagus.

The most significant risk factor for Barrett’s esophagus is being a Caucasian male. Although women and African Americans are at risk for GERD, they are at much lower risk for Barrett’s esophagus. GERD symptoms can often be controlled through lifestyle changes including avoiding foods that cause heartburn including alcohol, caffeinated drinks, chocolate, tomatoes, citrus fruit, and spicy foods.

People who have heartburn two or more times a week should talk to their health care professionals. Prescription medications can provide greater relief of GERD symptoms and last longer than over-the-counter antacids. It is especially important for men with GERD who could also have Barrett’s esophagus to discuss the disease with their doctors. Testing can be done to confirm GERD and to monitor the esophagus for early signs of cancer.


PubMed: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Medicine Net: Barrett’s Esophagus
Medicine Net: GERD
Mayo Clinic
Legato, Marianne J., M.D. Eve’s Rib New York: Harmony Books, 2002. Print.

Reviewed July 4, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Alison Stanton

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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