Helicobacter pylori and gastric cancer - the clinicians' point of view
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Although the incidence of gastric cancer has declined dramatically in Western countries, the most recent data from the International Agency for Research on Cancer show that it remains the second most common cancer worldwide and caused 628 000 deaths in 1990. The incidence and prevalence of gastric cancer are projected to increase over the next few decades in less developed countries as a result of the increased longevity of H. pylori-infected populations and improved therapies. Gastric carcinogenesis is a multistep and multifactorial process beginning with H. pylori-associated gastritis in most cases. H. pylori infection, together with other environmental factors and individual susceptibility, determine the final risk for the development of gastric cancer. The magnitude of H. pylori infection as a risk factor for gastric cancer in the published H. pylori and gastric cancer epidemiology studies may have been underestimated due to the inclusion of improperly selected controls. Eradication of the infection has been shown to prevent the occurrence of metachronous gastric cancer following endoscopic resection of early gastric cancer in a Japanese study. However, the generalization of this study to other populations is difficult because of the vast differences in the definition of gastric atrophy and early gastric cancer between Japanese and Western pathologists. Until an international consensus on the pathological diagnosis of gastric atrophy and early gastric cancer is reached, interpretation of studies performed in different countries remains difficult. Clinicians rely on the correct pathological diagnosis to guide the management of H. pylori infection-associated gastrointestinal diseases.
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