It remains unclear whether acquisition of Helicobacter pylori is due to a continuous risk of acquiring the infection or a cohort effect. In this prospective 3-year cohort study, the seroprevalence, conversion, and reversion of H. pylori infection as determined by IgG antibodies was examined. The cohort consisted of 316 randomly selected, nonpatient subjects aged 18-72 years who each provided at least 2 suitable samples. Seroprevalence of H. pylori increased from 21% in the third decade to 50% in the eighth decade. Crude annual seroconversion rate was 1% and the "spontaneous" seroreversion rate was 1.6%. Age was the only identified risk factor for H. pylori infection. A continuous risk of acquisition of 1%/year rather than a cohort effect best explains the pattern of H. pylori infection in this Canadian population. Seroconversion continues in adult life, and spontaneous reversions do occur, especially in the later decades.