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Dietary factors play essential roles in gastric carcinogenesis. We recently found that dietary supplementation with NaHCO3 significantly increased the development of gastric cancer in a rat gastric stump model. Here, we analysed nontransformed gastric mucosa for expression of the cancer-related proteins cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and ornithine decarboxylase (ODC), and we examined the relationship between expression levels of those proteins and mucosal proliferation. Research has shown that COX-2 is upregulated in gastric mucosal inflammation and is strongly associated with gastrointestinal cancer. ODC is the key enzyme in polyamine synthesis and a regulator of cell proliferation. We performed gastric resections on 48 Wistar rats to induce spontaneous gastric cancer; half of these animals were given a normal diet, and the other half received a diet supplemented with NaHCO3. Twenty-four unoperated rats served as a control group. The surgical procedure per se led to a significant rise in mucosal expression of COX-2 and an associated increase in cell proliferation. However, the COX-2 level in gastric mucosa was not further affected by dietary supplementation of carbonate. Interestingly, nontransformed gastric mucosa in the operated rats receiving a carbonate-supplemented diet showed a pronounced increase in ODC expression that was strongly correlated with a further enhanced cell proliferation. These results indicate that carbonate ions, which represent a major constituent of intestinal reflux into the stomach, increase the expression of ODC and thereby enhance cell proliferation in nontransformed mucosa, and consequently elevate the risk of gastric cancer.