Objective: The role of intestinal metaplasia in gastric oncogenesis has been demonstrated by both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies. This study was designed to determine whether, in a population at high risk for gastric cancer, different topographical patterns and phenotypes of intestinal metaplasia were associated with different degrees of cancer risk.
Methods: A total of 68 Colombian patients with gastric cancer and 67 controls with nonulcer dyspepsia were studied by an extensive biopsy protocol. Intestinal metaplasia was assessed semiquantitatively by histology and was characterized histochemically. In both patients and controls, the Spearman's correlation test was applied to the test if the gastric distribution of metaplastic lesions resulted in specific topographical patterns associated with different risks for cancer.
Results: Four topographical patterns of intestinalization emerged: 1) "Focal," in 14 cancer patients and 16 controls; 2) "Antrum-predominant," in seven cancer patients and six controls; 3) "Magenstrasse" (involving the lesser curvature from cardia to pylorus) in 25 cancer patients and four controls. This pattern was associated with higher cancer risk (OR = 5.7; 95% CI: 1.3-26) than were the two less extensive patterns; and 4) "Diffuse," involving essentially the entire gastric mucosa with the exception of the fundus, was unique to 13 cancer patients. The OR for cancer was 12.2; 95% CI: 2.0-72.9. Incomplete-type metaplasia significantly correlated with the extent of total metaplasia and was also associated with greater cancer risk.
Conclusions: In a population with high risk for gastric cancer, the extension of intestinal metaplasia correlates with the extent of its "incomplete" phenotype and is significantly associated with increased cancer risk. Both the extent and location of intestinal metaplasia along the lesser curvature (from the cardia to the prepyloric zones) identify patients with the highest cancer risk.