Vitamin C and other antioxidants can lower the risk of esophageal cancer in GERD patients

August 09, 2010

  Researchers from Ireland report the association of a reduced risk of esophageal cancer among men and women who consumed higher amounts of antioxidants compared to those with a lower intake. GERD or chronic heartburn causes chronic inflammation of the esophagus. Esophageal cancer can develop in individuals with Barrett’s esophagus, a condition in which the mucosa of the esophagus undergoes changes incurred by GERD. Reflux esophagitis, a condition characterized by esophageal inflammation, is believed to precede Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer.

     The study included men and women who participated in the Factors Influencing the Barrett’s Adenocarcinoma Relationship study. Seamus J. Murphy of Queen’s University Belfast and colleagues compared 219 individuals with reflux esophagitis, 220 with Barrett’s esophagus and 224 with esophageal cancer to 256 gender and age-matched controls who did not have the disorders. Dietary questionnaire responses were analyzed for the intake of vitamin C, vitamin E, total carotenoids, zinc, copper, and selenium.

Overall antioxidant index was associated with a lower risk of esophageal cancer. Those in the top one-third had a 43 percent lower adjusted risk of esophageal cancer compared to those whose antioxidant index was lowest. Among individual antioxidants, participants in the top third of vitamin C intake had a 63 percent lower risk of esophageal cancer and a 52 percent lower risk of reflux esophagitis compared to those in the lowest third.
“This is the largest case control study to examine the association between dietary intake of antioxidant vitamins and minerals in humans and the risk of reflex esophagitis, Barrett’s esophagus, and esophageal adenocarcinoma utilizing the same control group,” the authors write. “These results suggest that antioxidants may play a role in the pathogenesis of reflux esophagitis and esophageal adenocarcinoma and may be more important in terms of progression rather than initiation of the disease process.”

The study is published online on August 11, 2010 in the Journal of Nutrition.