Tight Belts Linked To Increased Throat Cancer Risk: Constricted Waistbands Can Lead To Acid Reflux, Damage Cells

Woman wearing tight belt
Tight belts and constricting waistbands may increase your risk of throat cancer. Colin Rose, CC BY-SA 2.0

Whether you wear a belt to make your pants fit or to make a fashion statement, wearing a tight belt is found to increase your risk of throat cancer, according to a recent study. Researchers from Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities and Southern General Hospital in Scotland examined how abdominal pressure from wearing a tight belt or waistband increases the odds of acid reflux after food consumption.

Twenty-four participants, half with normal waist sizes and half who were overweight, were the sample size for the small study. The participants had no prior history of acid reflux and were overall healthy. The researchers asked the participants to swallow a specially designed probe that took measurements both before and after each participant had eaten a meal. The measurements were taken while the volunteers were wearing a tight belt and when they were not wearing a belt.

All of the participants involved in the study reported experiencing a partial hiatus hernia and acid reflux, according to the Daily Record. “Wearing a tight belt, especially if you are overweight, puts strain on the valve between the stomach and the gullet,” Kenneth McColl, lead researcher of the study and professor at Glasgow University’s Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, told the Daily Record. The added pressure on the valve causes the stomach acid to leak upwards into the throat and ultimately produces acid reflux.

A tight belt or constricting waistband increases the risk for bowel discomfort and stomachaches because of the flow disruption that it causes to a person’s digestive system, making it difficult for gas and food to move downward. When food and gas travel up to the esophagus, the esophagus can become irritated because of the high acidity of the foods, which can trigger a burning sensation in a person’s throat. A frequent reoccurrence of acid reflux can damage the cells in the esophagus, increasing the likelihood of cells becoming cancerous, according to the Mayo Clinic. When the cells reach a precancerous stage, this is known as Barrett’s esophagus. If left untreated, it can develop into esophageal cancer.

“This is one of the most rapidly increasing forms of cancer, and Scotland has one of the highest incidences of it in the world,” said McColl.

In the United States, the risk of developing esophageal cancer is about one in 125 for men and about one in 435 in women, the American Cancer Society reports. Trouble swallowing, chest pain, weight loss, and a chronic cough are some common symptoms of throat cancer.

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