Background: Helicobacter pylori are gram-negative spiral bacteria that are associated with chronic gastritis, a known precursor of gastric carcinoma. Persons at high risk for gastric carcinoma have been shown to have a high prevalence of H. pylori infection.
Methods: We studied the relation of H. pylori infection and gastric carcinoma in a cohort of Japanese American men living in Hawaii. The 5908 men were enrolled and examined from 1967 to 1970. By 1989, 109 cases of pathologically confirmed gastric carcinoma had been identified. The store serum of each patient with gastric carcinoma and of each matched control subject were tested for the presence of serum IgG antibody to H. pylori.
Results: Ninety-four percent of the men with gastric carcinoma and 76 percent of the matched control subjects had a positive test for H. pylori antibodies, for an odds ratio of 6.0 (95 percent confidence interval, 2.1 to 17.3). As the level of antibody to H. pylori increased, there was a progressive increase in the risk of gastric carcinoma (P for trend = 0.0009). The association was strong even for men in whom the diagnosis was made 10 or more years after the serum sample was obtained (odds ratio, 10.5; 95 percent confidence interval, 2.5 to 44.8).
Conclusions: Infection with H. pylori is strongly associated with an increased risk of gastric carcinoma. However, most persons infected with H. pylori will never have gastric carcinoma. Therefore, other factors that increase the risk of gastric carcinoma among persons infected with H. pylori need to be identified.