We conducted a longitudinal cohort study to determine the association of Helicobacter pylori infection and the progression of chronic atrophic gastritis (CAG) with gastric cancer. A cohort of 4655 healthy asymptomatic subjects was followed for a mean period of 7.7 years. H. pylori infection was established by serum specific antibodies and the presence of CAG was confirmed by serum pepsinogen. During the follow-up period, 45 gastric cancer cases were detected (incidence rate, 126/100000 person-years). A univariate analysis after adjustment for age showed that both H. pylori and CAG were significantly associated with gastric cancer. To clarify the interaction between H. pylori and CAG, an analysis stratified by H. pylori- and CAG-status was performed. No cancer developed in the H. pylori(-)/CAG(-) group during the study period. This supports the theory that it is quite rare for any type of gastric cancer to develop in an H. pylori-free healthy stomach. With the progression of H. pylori-induced gastritis, the risk of gastric cancer increased in a stepwise fashion from CAG-free gastritis [H. pylori(+)/CAG(-) group] (HR=7.13, 95%CI=0.95-53.33) to CAG [H. pylori(+)/CAG(+) group] (HR=14.85, 95%CI=1.96-107.7) and finally to severe CAG with extensive intestinal metaplasia [H. pylori(-)/CAG(+) group] (HR=61.85, 95%CI=5.6-682.64) in which loss of H. pylori from the stomach is observed. Therefore, it is probable that H. pylori alone is not directly associated with stomach carcinogenesis. Instead, H. pylori appears to influence stomach carcinogenesis through the development of CAG. The observed positive correlation between the extent of H. pylori-induced gastritis and the development of cancer was strong, especially for the intestinal type. These results are compelling evidence that severe gastritis with extensive intestinal metaplasia is a major risk factor for gastric cancer, and they confirm the previously described model of stomach carcinogenesis: the gastritis-metaplasia-carcinoma sequence.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.