Background/aims: Low serum levels of pepsinogen A are indicative of chronic atrophy, a risk factor for gastric cancer. This study investigated the relationships between low pepsinogen A levels, Helicobacter pylori seropositivity, and gastric cancer rates in 17 populations worldwide.
Methods: In each center, about 200 randomly selected subjects (50 male and 50 female, aged 25-34 and 55-64 years) provided serum samples for pepsinogen analysis and H. pylori serology.
Results: Cumulative gastric cancer rates were associated with the prevalence of low pepsinogen A levels in men (coefficient, 0.15 [P = 0.06] for mortality; coefficient, 0.36 [P = 0.01] for incidence) but not women. The prevalence of low pepsinogen A levels was also correlated with H. pylori seropositivity in the older age group (r = 0.55; P = 0.02). Low pepsinogen A levels were significantly more common in the older group (7.5% vs. 2.1% in the younger group; P < 0.001), among women (5.5% vs. 4.1% in men; P = 0.04), and among nonsmokers (5.8% vs. 2.9% in current smokers; P = 0.001).
Conclusions: Low pepsinogen A levels are more common in areas with a high seroprevalence of H. pylori and in men in areas with high rates of gastric cancer. The prevalence of low pepsinogen A levels increases with age, but the excess in women and nonsmokers could reflect factors other than gastric pathology.