BACKGROUND: Concerns have been raised regarding the risks associated with gastroesophageal reflux (GER). We examined the association of gastroesophageal reflux with survival. METHODS: Between 1988 and 1993, valid symptom surveys were mailed to population-based cohorts. Respondents were classified into 4 GER symptom categories: daily, at least weekly (not daily), infrequent (less than weekly), and none. Administrative records were used to identify deaths during the follow-up (through June 2006). Association between survival and GER subgroups was assessed using proportional hazards regression to compute hazard ratios (HRs, 95% confidence intervals), adjusting for age, gender, education level, Charlson Comorbidity Index, alcohol, and tobacco. RESULTS: At baseline, 5,288 eligible subjects (mean age 53 yr, 51% female) responded (response rates over 70%); 2% reported daily heartburn, 13% weekly (not daily) heartburn, 40% infrequent heartburn, and 35% no heartburn. At 10 yr, 83% (95% CI 81-84%) of the no heartburn group was alive. An overall association between heartburn category and survival was detected (P < 0.001). Compared to no heartburn, daily heartburn was not associated with an increased risk of death (HR 1.16, 95% CI 0.82-1.65), but better survival was observed for weekly (HR 0.67, 95% CI 0.55-0.83) and infrequent (HR 0.80, 95% CI 0.70-0.92) heartburn. Increasing age, male gender, greater Charlson index, and tobacco use all predicted worse survival. CONCLUSIONS: In this population-based study with over 50,000 person-years of follow-up, reflux symptoms were not associated with worse survival. The vast majority of heartburn sufferers can be reassured of the benign nature of their condition.
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