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A large-scale Swedish study has refuted the common belief that most people suffering from chronic acid reflux are at higher risk of developing esophageal cancer.

"Previous studies have shown that patients with recurrent symptoms of acid reflux tend to develop esophageal cancer," said lead researcher Dr. Dag Holmberg, a researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. "We found that these individuals were at the same risk of cancer as the general population."

It has long been thought that chronic acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, raises the risk of cancer because of the possibility of injury to the lining of the esophagus, Holmberg explained.

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According to experts, the majority of patients suffering from the disease have a normal mucous membrane without any signs of injury.

For the study, the scientific team analyzed information from the National Health Registry on two patient groups in Sweden, Denmark and Finland. Participants received treatment for gastroesophageal reflux between 1987 and 2019.

The first group includes more than 285,000 men and women who suffer from acid reflux disease. The second group numbered approximately 200,000 patients who suffered oesophageal injuries as a result of the disease.

The researchers also monitored the participants for periods of up to 31 years. Cases of esophageal cancer were compared with the incidence of disease in the general population for the same time.

Among the second group, the researchers found an increased risk of esophageal cancer, but found no indication of a greater possibility of the disease occurring among participants without esophageal injuries, with the exception of a "very moderate" increase in women.

"I don't think it matters much clinically," Holmberg said. "The risk of esophageal cancer in women is extremely low, with about 85% of all tumors developing in men. And since the increase in risk is very moderate, no further monitoring is needed."

According to Connie Dickman, a food and nutrition consultant at St. Louis, if the results of the Swedish study are accurate, routine endoscopies may no longer be needed after initial examination confirmed that the patient's esophagus had no signs of damage.

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