Drug News: How Taking Zantac May Cause Cancer

Drug News: How Taking Zantac May Cause Cancer

Concerns arose a few weeks ago about Zantac, a widely used drug for treating heartburn, and its potential carcinogenic impurities. With a lot of people taking the Sanofi-manufactured ranitidine medicine for their acid reflux as well, the news made headlines in early April. It caused consumers to worry about whether they’ll develop cancer.

Ranitidine functions as an H2 blocker or histamine H2-receptor antagonist, which binds to proteins in the stomach to lessen heartburn sensations and symptoms. After eating, your body produces gastrin, a hormone that facilitates digestion by boosting the movement of your stomach to break down food. This chemical also aids in producing histamine, which attaches to H2 receptors to release gastric acid to facilitate the digestive process.

The acid becomes a problem, however, for people who have a weak lower esophageal sphincter, which leads to reflux and heartburn. H2 blockers, like ranitidine, help decrease the production of acid to reduce backflow into your esophagus.

According to Drug Injury News, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ordered all companies that manufacture ranitidine to pull out their products from the market immediately. This step is part of the government’s efforts to investigate traces of a contaminant called N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) in the drug.

NDMA Presence

NDMA is a carcinogen that’s commonly found in the environment. It can be formed through industrial or chemical processes, such as water treatment. Moreover, very low levels of the environmental contaminant are also present in food, like cured meats and dairy, as well as in beauty products, such as shampoos.

Most of the time, your exposure to NDMA won’t lead to significant harm to your body. However, the traces found in ranitidine products exceed the acceptable amount that’s approved by the FDA.

Moreover, prolonged exposure and usage of these drugs can elevate NDMA levels in your body. Some studies even suggest that the contaminant can be formed naturally when the body digests ranitidine, although research has been non-conclusive about this phenomenon yet.

Nonetheless, concerns about developing cancer from taking Zantac are valid since NDMA has been linked to cancer in the bladder, brain, colon, esophagus, kidney, liver, lung, stomach, and throat. There’s also the heightened risk of getting leukemia, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

In a scientific study published by Carcinogenesis last year, researchers found a link between ingesting NDMA and developing pancreatic cancer. Participants who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer were surveyed about how frequently they consumed NDMA-high food, such as fermented cheese and beer.

The result was that people who ate this type of food more often had a higher risk of cancer development. Specifically, they were 93 percent more likely to get pancreatic cancer than those who ate it in moderation.

You should take note, however, that the levels of NDMA in Zantac and other ranitidine products barely exceed the amounts that are present in everyday food. Nonetheless, you should watch out for strange symptoms, such as rapid weight loss, bloody or tarry stools, fatigue, or severe abdominal pain, that are different from the intensity you usually have with heartburn or acid reflux.

FDA Recommendation

In a public statement issued by the FDA last September 26, the agency did not impose consumers to stop taking ranitidine products. However, should you wish to discontinue usage, you must consult with your physician first about the alternatives. You can find other over-the-counter (OTC) products for heartburn and acid reflux in the market.

In a press release calling for the removal of Zantac and other contaminated ranitidine products in April, the FDA assured the public that they didn’t detect unacceptable levels of NDMA in these drugs, but they ultimately decided to recall the medicines since they were unsure of how the chemical would react after being in storage for a long time.

Cancer development is influenced by several variables, from the medications you take, the types of food you eat, and your overall lifestyle. Avoid consuming sugary drinks since these beverages can lead to obesity and, ultimately, cancer. Choose water, instead, and exercise regularly to boost your immune system.


Zantac is a popular ranitidine product that most people take for their heartburn and acid reflux problems. However, an investigation by the FDA has found traces of NDMA, an environmental carcinogen, which barely exceeds the appropriate amount that ought to be consumed by an individual.

Exposure and consumption of high levels of NDMA have been linked to pancreatic cancer and other problems in the bladder, brain, colon, lungs, stomach, and throat, among others. The carcinogen has also been associated with the development of leukemia, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

If you want to discontinue the consumption of Zantac, the FDA recommends talking to your doctor about possible alternatives. You should also cultivate a healthy lifestyle to strengthen your body and boost your immunity.

Anna Daniels

Anna is an avid blogger with an educational background in medicine and mental health. She is a generalist with many other interests including nutrition, women's health, astronomy and photography. In her free time from work and writing, Anna enjoys nature walks, reading, and listening to jazz and classical music.

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