Gastric cancer lacks specific symptoms, resulting in diagnosis at later stages and high mortality. Serum pepsinogen is a biomarker for atrophic gastritis, a gastric cancer precursor, and may be useful to detect persons at increased risk of gastric cancer.


The Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial was conducted in the United States between 1993 and 2001. ELISA-based pepsinogen tests were conducted on prediagnostic serum samples of 105 PLCO participants who developed gastric cancer and 209 age, sex, and race-matched controls. Pepsinogen positive (PG+) was defined as pepsinogen I ≤ 70 μg/L and pepsinogen I/II ratio ≤3.0. Results of conditional logistic regression models, and sensitivity and specificity, of PG+ for gastric cancer are reported.


Gastric cancer cases were more likely to be PG+ (31.4% vs. 5.5%, P < 0.001) at baseline than controls. Compared to PG-, PG+ was associated with an 8.5-fold increased risk for gastric cancer [95% confidence interval (CI) = 3.8–19.4]. This risk remained significant after adjusting for Helicobacter pylori, family history of gastric cancer, education, smoking, and BMI (aOR, 10.6; 95% CI, 4.3–26.2). In subgroup analysis, PG+ individuals were 11-fold more like to develop non-cardia gastric cancer (OR, 11.1; 95% CI, 4.3–28.8); conversely, they were not significantly more likely to develop cardia gastric cancer (OR, 2.0; 95% CI = 0.3–14.2). PG+ status yielded low sensitivity but high specificity for both noncardia (44.3%; 93.6%) and cardia gastric cancer (5.7%; 97.2%).


Prediagnostic serum pepsinogen levels from a large, prospective cohort study were associated with risk of gastric cancer, particularly noncardia gastric cancer.


PG status may identify individuals at higher risk of noncardia gastric cancer for targeted screening or interventions.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.