Helicobacter pylori is the main cause of peptic ulceration, distal gastric adenocarcinoma, and gastric lymphoma. Only 15% of those colonized develop disease, and pathogenesis depends upon strain virulence, host genetic susceptibility, and environmental cofactors. Virulence factors include the cag pathogenicity island, which induces proinflammatory, pro-proliferative epithelial cell signaling; the cytotoxin VacA, which causes epithelial damage; and an adhesin, BabA. Host genetic polymorphisms that lead to high-level pro-inflammatory cytokine release in response to infection increase cancer risk. Pathogenesis is dependent upon inflammation, a Th-1 acquired immune response and hormonal changes including hypergastrinaemia. Antral-predominant inflammation leads to increased acid production from the uninflamed corpus and predisposes to duodenal ulceration; corpus-predominant gastritis leads to hypochlorhydria and predisposes to gastric ulceration and adenocarcinoma. Falling prevalence of H. pylori in developed countries has led to a falling incidence of associated diseases. However, whether there are disadvantages of an H. pylori-free stomach, for example increased risk of esosphageal adenocarcinoma, remains unclear.