Background: Infection with Helicobacter pylori has been linked with chronic atrophic gastritis, an inflammatory precursor of gastric adenocarcinoma. In a nested case-control study, we explored whether H. pylori infection increases the risk of gastric carcinoma.
Methods: From a cohort of 128,992 persons followed since the mid-1960s at a health maintenance organization, 186 patients with gastric carcinoma were selected as case patients and were matched according to age, sex, and race with 186 control subjects without gastric carcinoma. Stored serum samples collected during the 1960s were tested for IgG antibodies to H. pylori by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Data on cigarette use, blood group, ulcer disease, and gastric surgery were obtained from questionnaires administered at enrollment. Tissue sections and pathology reports were reviewed to confirm the histologic results.
Results: The mean time between serum collection and the diagnosis of gastric carcinoma was 14.2 years. Of the 109 patients with confirmed gastric adenocarcinoma (excluding tumors of the gastroesophageal junction), 84 percent had been infected previously with H. pylori, as compared with 61 percent of the matched control subjects (odds ratio, 3.6; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.8 to 7.3). Tumors of the gastroesophageal junction were not linked to H. pylori infection, nor were tumors in the gastric cardia. H. pylori was a particularly strong risk factor for stomach cancer in women (odds ratio, 18) and blacks (odds ratio, 9). A history of gastric surgery was independently associated with the development of cancer (odds ratio, 17; P = 0.03), but a history of peptic ulcer disease was negatively associated with subsequent gastric carcinoma (odds ratio, 0.2; P = 0.02). Neither blood group nor smoking history affected risk.
Conclusions: Infection with H. pylori is associated with an increased risk of gastric adenocarcinoma and may be a cofactor in the pathogenesis of this malignant condition.