SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Scientists say they've found a way to fix a heartburn-related problem that can lead to one of the nation's most rapidly increasing cancers.

The cancer is adenocarcinoma of the esophagus, and it now strikes some 3,000 Americans a year. No one knows why more people are being afflicted, although almost all cases involve people with a condition known as Barrett's esophogus.

The risk of getting the cancer rises as much as 50-fold if a person has a the condition, in which the normal lining of the esophagus is replaced by abnormal cells.

That's estimated to occur in about 10 percent of heartburn patients who have their esophoguses examined, and about 10 percent of people with the condition eventually develop the cancer, said researcher Dr. Harinder Garewal said Tuesday at a seminar sponsored by the American Cancer Society.

Barrett's esophagus results from a longstanding problem of stomach acid getting into the esophagus, which produces heartburn. In addition, it appears to require some kind of injury to the lining of the esophagus that heals abnormally because of the acid, Garewal said.

Nobody knows what would cause such an injury in people, he said.

The new treatment involves stopping the acid's appearance with a drug, re-injuring the lining of the esophagus with a hot probe and then letting the injury heal without the stomach acid around.

The treatment wiped out the esophagus problem in six patients, he said. Their esophagus linings healed to become normal cells again.

Patients are now being followed to make sure the result persists and to see if that will lower risk of the esophagus cancer, Garewal said.