Carcinogenesis, prevention and early detection of gastric cancer: where we are and where we should go

Int J Cancer. 2012 Feb 15;130(4):745-53. doi: 10.1002/ijc.26430. Epub 2011 Oct 20.


Helicobacter pylori is the most common cause of gastric cancer (GC), though smoking, alcohol, diet, genetics and epigenetic factors may also have a role in the occurrence of the disease. Why H. pylori cause GC in only a minority of those infected remains unknown. Although mechanisms of H. pylori-induced carcinogenesis are not yet well understood, several genotypes of H. pylori have been associated with strain virulence and disease risk. Primary prevention of GC should be addressed by avoiding exposure to factors that increase the risk and to promote factors associated with decrease risk. Vaccines against H. pylori are an ongoing promise and not yet available. Chemoprevention through vitamin supplementation has shown no benefit. Screening and eradication of H. pylori in the general population is not advised. Given that GC is a multiple-steps process, the identification of patients with preneoplastic lesions with high risk of progression, and periodic endoscopic surveillance of them represents the most effective way for early diagnosis of GC. However, clinical guidelines for surveillance are lacking and there are no clear criteria to classify patients into high or low risk of progressing to GC. No study has shown the potential usefulness of combining the information on the type of preneoplastic lesions, genetic and epigenetic, lifestyle and virulence bacterial factors in order to identify high risk patients who need more intensive surveillance. The integration of all this information, in a prediction model requires further research and could be the most important contribution for reducing the burden of GC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA Methylation
  • Early Detection of Cancer*
  • Helicobacter Infections / complications
  • Helicobacter pylori
  • Humans
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Risk Factors
  • Stomach Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Stomach Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Stomach Neoplasms / genetics
  • Stomach Neoplasms / prevention & control