Epidemiology of gastric cancer in relation to diet and Helicobacter pylori infection

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Gastric cancer is the second most common fatal malignancy in the world. In China, gastric cancer is now the second most common malignancy, while in Hong Kong, the mortality rate ranked fourth among all cancers in 1995. Dietary factors in gastric carcinogenesis came mostly from case-control studies. N-Nitroso compounds from dietary sources such as preserved, smoked and salted foods were found to be associated with gastric cancer. β-Carotene, selenium and α-tocopherol have been shown in an intervention study to be favourable in the reduction of stomach cancer mortality. Fruits and vegetables showed the most consistent results of inverse association with gastric cancer. Dietary salt intake in preserved or salted foods is also shown to be associated with gastric cancer. Tea drinking, especially green tea, has a protective effect against gastric cancer as shown in some studies. Prospective case-control studies of the association between Helicobacter pylori infection and the subsequent development of gastric cancer showed that the odds ratio ranged from 2.8 to 6.0. However, results of similar case-control studies in countries with a high frequency of gastric cancer are controversial. Infection with H. pylori leads to changes in the vitamin C content of gastric juice, reactive oxygen metabolites, epithelial cell proliferation and apoptosis. Recently, CagA-positive strains were found to be associated with gastric cancer and also duodenal ulcers. The exact role of H. pylori in gastric carcinogenesis is still under investigation. Large-scale intervention studies are underway to examine dietary supplementation, H. pylori infection and gastric cancer. Helicobacter pylori eradication for gastric cancer prevention is being conducted in China and other parts of the world. In high-risk areas, for example in China, a combination approach including H. pylori eradication and dietary supplementation may be necessary.

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