Health Questions and Answers

Question: Does Helicobacter pylori play a role in gastric cancer?

Answer:

Yes. Gastric cancer is the second most common cancer in the world. Unfortunately, it still carries a poor prognosis, and treatment options are limited. Patients with H. pylori infection have been repeatedly reported to have a threefold to sixfold higher incidence of gastric cancer. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified H. pylori as a group I carcinogen. The chronic gastritis produced by H. pylori results in increased DNA turnover and free radical generation. Infection with H. pylori also results in decreased secretion of vitamin C, a known antioxidant, in gastric juice. Over time these factors can lead to mutation of gastric epithelial cells and development of adenocarcinoma. Recent studies suggest that eliminating H. pylori in high-risk people can obviate development of subsequent gastric cancer.

Reference:
Uemora N, Okamoto S, Yamamoto S, et al: Helicobacter pylori infection and the development of gastric cancer. N Engl J Med 345:784-789, 2001.

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