Family history of gastric cancer: Should we test and treat for Helicobacter pylori?

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


A close link has been established between Helicobacter pylori infection and gastric cancer. In this article, we suggest that using a risk stratification technique (like that for colorectal cancer), the high-risk group of first-degree relatives of patients with gastric cancer can be separated out for H. pylori testing and treatment. This would be more manageable and more cost-effective than screening the whole population, in which the mortality from distal gastric cancer has declined concomitant with the eradication of H. pylori infection. Support for the feasibility of this approach is derived from studies showing that the family is the core unit of H. pylori transmission and that childhood colonization, especially with a virulent strain, is apparently a major risk factor for disease progression to the neoplastic stage. When there is a case of gastric cancer in the family, first-degree relatives, who might be infected by a bacterium with an identical genetic fingerprint, are at higher risk than normal for developing gastric cancer. Furthermore, genetic and epidemiologic studies based on the Correa model have shown that both primary and secondary prevention of gastric cancer is possible. Calculations done in high-risk populations, such as Japanese-Americans, confirm the savings in cost and the safety of the test-and-treat strategy. Considering that H. pylori eradication should be done as early as possible, at a point in the cascade when the changes are still reversible, and that gastric cancer is associated with a high mortality rate, we suggest that this strategy be applied to this high-risk population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)204-208
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Clinical Gastroenterology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2003


  • Atrophy
  • Gastric cancer
  • Helicobacter pylori
  • Intestinal metaplasia
  • Oncology
  • Premalignant state


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