Helicobacter pylori as a risk factor for cancer

Baillieres Clin Gastroenterol. 1995 Sep;9(3):563-82. doi: 10.1016/0950-3528(95)90049-7.


In 1985, gastric cancer was the second most common cause of cancer death in the world. The rapid decline in gastric cancer rates over the last few decades has been attributed to a decline in the prevalence of environmental risk factors for gastric cancer and/or an increase in the prevalence of protective factors. One such risk factor could be the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. Epidemiological studies have shown that areas with high gastric cancer rates often have a correspondingly high prevalence of H. pylori and prospective studies have shown that subjects with serological evidence of H. pylori infection were significantly more likely to go on to develop gastric cancer than those who did not. Helicobacter pylori itself does not appear to be either genotoxic or mutagenic. Infection is, however, associated with increased cell turnover, a chronic immune response accompanied by increased levels of reactive oxygen metabolites and a reduction in gastric levels of ascorbic acid, all conditions that could favour the development of cancer. Nonetheless, the majority of those who are infected with H. pylori do not go on to develop gastric cancer and other factors, such as the strain of the infecting organism or consumption of dietary antioxidants including vitamin C, could also affect the risk of cancer. Finally, it has been estimated that more than one third, and possibly as many as 90% of gastric cancers might be attributable to infection with H. pylori. Prevention and treatment of infection are, therefore, possible approaches to reducing gastric cancer rates. It is, however, unclear what, if any, effect eradication of the infection would have on an individual's risk of gastric cancer and, to date, anti-Helicobacter therapy has only been shown to be of potential benefit in the treatment of low grade gastric MALT lymphomas.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Gastritis / microbiology
  • Gastritis / prevention & control
  • Helicobacter Infections / complications
  • Helicobacter Infections / epidemiology*
  • Helicobacter Infections / prevention & control
  • Helicobacter pylori*
  • Humans
  • Lymphoma / epidemiology
  • Lymphoma / etiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Stomach Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Stomach Neoplasms / etiology