Helicobacter pylori infection is a major cause of gastritis and may be a key risk factor for stomach cancer, but its role in the process of gastric carcinogenesis is not well understood. Herein, we examine H. pylori prevalence in relation to demographic and lifestyle factors and to severity of precancerous lesions in an area of China with one of the highest rates of stomach cancer in the world. H. pylori serum IgG antibody positivity was assayed among 2646 adults, ages 35-64, participating in a population-based gastroscopic screening survey in the high-risk area. The prevalence of positivity was evaluated according to gastric histology, environmental and lifestyle variables determined by interviews during the screening, and level of serum pepsinogens. The odds of advanced precancerous lesions (intestinal metaplasia and dysplasia) of the stomach among those with antibody positivity were estimated by logistic regression. Seventy-two % of the population was H. pylori antibody-positive, with nonsignificant variation by sex, age, income, education, family size, and cigarette smoking habits. H. pylori positivity was higher among those who ate sour pancakes, a fermented indigenous staple that is a risk factor for gastric dysplasia and stomach cancer in this population. The prevalence of H. pylori varied most notably, however, with gastric pathology. The percent of H. pylori positivity increased from 55 to 60 to 87% among those with superficial (nonatrophic) gastritis, mild chronic atrophic gastritis, and severe chronic atrophic gastritis, respectively, before falling to 78% among those with intestinal metaplasia or dysplasia. H. pylori antibody positivity also was strongly correlated with serum pepsinogen concentrations, particularly pepsinogen II, but knowledge of H. pylori status did not markedly improve serological identification of advanced precancerous lesions above that provided by pepsinogen ratios alone. The findings suggest that H. pylori infection contributes to the process of gastric carcinogenesis, particularly during the early stages, in this high-risk area.

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