Background: Colonization with Helicobacter pylori is a risk factor for gastric adenocarcinoma, but the magnitude of this association and its relationship to anatomic location of the cancer, duration of follow-up, age at diagnosis, histologic subtype, and H. pylori strain differences are less clear. We conducted a prospective nested case-control study of H. pylori serology to address these questions.
Methods: Case and control subjects were selected from the 29,133 50- to 69-year-old males recruited into the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study. At baseline, detailed demographic data and a serum sample were collected. From 1985 to 1999, 243 incident cases of gastric adenocarcinoma were diagnosed in cohort members. Serum samples from 234 case subjects (173 with noncardia gastric cancers and 61 with gastric cardia cancers) and 234 age-matched control subjects were assayed for antibodies against H. pylori whole-cell and CagA antigens. We fit conditional logistic regression models to estimate the unadjusted and adjusted odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for the association of H. pylori seropositivity, defined as seropositivity to either whole-cell or CagA antigens, with noncardia gastric and gastric cardia cancers. All statistical tests were two-sided.
Results: H. pylori seropositivity was strongly associated with the risk of noncardia gastric cancer (adjusted OR = 7.9, 95% CI = 3.0 to 20.9) but was inversely associated with the risk of gastric cardia cancer (adjusted OR = 0.31, 95% CI = 0.11 to 0.89). H. pylori seropositivity rates did not vary statistically significantly by length of follow-up, age at diagnosis, or histologic subtype. A calculation of rates showed that the absolute risks of noncardia gastric and cardia gastric adenocarcinomas in the H. pylori-positive participants of this cohort would be 63 and 12 per 100,000 person-years, respectively, whereas corresponding rates in H. pylori-negative participants would be 8 and 37 per 100,000 person-years, respectively.
Conclusion: H. pylori is a strong risk factor for noncardia gastric cancer but is inversely associated with the risk of gastric cardia cancer. These findings bolster the hypothesis that decreasing H. pylori prevalence during the past century may have contributed to lower rates of noncardia cancer and higher rates of cardia cancer in Western countries.