Background: There is biologic plausibility as to why infection with Helicobacter pylori, the leading cause of gastric cancer, may also increase the risk of colorectal cancer, but the epidemiologic findings have been inconsistent. We assessed the association of H. pylori protein-specific infection and colorectal cancer risk in the prospective cohort, the Southern Community Cohort Study.
Methods: Multiplex serology was used to measure antibodies to 15 H. pylori proteins in prediagnostic blood among 188 incident colorectal cancer cases and 370 controls matched by age, race, sex, and blood collection timing. Conditional logistic regression was used to calculate ORs and 95% confidence intervals (CI).
Results: Overall H. pylori prevalence was not associated with colorectal cancer risk (OR, 1.03; 95% CI, 0.59-1.77). However, seropositivity to any of five specific H. pylori proteins (VacA, HP231, HP305, NapA, and HcpC) was associated with a significant 60% to 80% increase in odds of risk. These associations became even stronger when limited to colon cancer risk, particularly for the known H. pylori toxin VacA (OR, 2.24; 95% CI, 1.22-4.11), including a significant, positive dose-response association by VacA antibody levels in quartiles (P < 0.05). Associations with VacA seropositivity were especially strong for early-onset and late-stage cancers.
Conclusions: The findings raise the hypothesis that individuals with high levels of antibodies to specific H. pylori proteins may be at higher risk of colon cancer.
Impact: Further investigation of the H. pylori-colorectal cancer association is warranted to determine the possibility of protein-specific antibody levels as a risk biomarker.