Reducing common infections could strongly lower stomach cancer risk

It is well known within the medical community that there is a link between the bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H pylori) and rates of gastric cancer—commonly referred to as stomach cancer.

But the rates and risk among Americans have been largely understudied.

In a new study, researchers found that successfully eliminating H pylori infection from one’s gastrointestinal tract led to a 75% reduction in the risk of stomach cancer.

They also found that rates of stomach cancer after detection of H pylori infection are higher among specific populations, suggesting that people who fall into these groups could benefit from more careful monitoring.

The research was conducted by a team at the University of Pennsylvania.

H pylori is estimated to infect half of the world’s population, largely those in the eastern parts of the world.

It can cause ulcers and other gastrointestinal issues but does not cause issues in the majority of people, and so many people are unaware they have it.

In the study, the research team analyzed records of close to 400,000 patients.

They found that African American, Asian, Hispanic and Latinx, American Indian and Inuit Americans have a significantly higher risk of H pylori infection and of developing gastric cancer.

Risks, when compared to the general population, are also higher among men, those who smoke, and among those whose H pylori infection is detected in older age.

The team also saw that eradication of H pylori infection dropped gastric cancer risk by about 75%, but that simply prescribing the H pylori regimen does not decrease the likelihood of getting this cancer.

This finding suggests physicians should ensure that the bacteria is eradicated after treatment, a consensus guideline recommendation that is often not followed due to the cumbersome nature of H pylori testing.

While H pylori and gastric cancer have serious consequences, the team is optimistic that the information from this study can lead to further research on the merits of increasing screening.

The lead author of the study is Shria Kumar, MD, a fellow in the division of Gastroenterology.

The study is published in Gastroenterology.

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