Problems arising from H pylori start with gastric issues. These can range from the uncomfortable to downright distressing and life disrupting. Without treatment, at best, these issues will slowly get worse. For many people though, as unpleasant as things are, this is as far as the injuries arising from H pylori progress, however for a smaller number of patients things can get a lot more serious. We are already aware that ulcers, both in the stomach and the duodenum, can develop. These are thought to be caused by the bacteria burrowing into the walls of the stomach or the intestine and then acid conditions turning what is essentially a sore into an extremely painful ulcer. In some cases these ulcers can bleed and result in extreme distress and pain for the patient. However there is also a link between H pylori and stomach cancer. Currently it is not established exactly how this occurs but it is certain that where H pylori exist there is inflammation to the gastric mucosa and the cells lining the stomach and intestines. Such inflammation, can in some situations, result in changes to the cells which eventually manifest as cancer.
For many years it was believed that it was the ulcers which actually developed into cancer but more recently it was proven there was no direct correlation. What was proven however was a correlation between H pylori and stomach cancers. The missing link however was subsequently proven to be attributed to that of gastric inflammation.
Although we mainly associate H pylori with causing ulcers they also cause the less easily identifiable, inflammation of the gastric mucosa and it is here where the links between the bacteria and stomach cancer were found. A study undertaken in China which has a high incidence of H pylori produced results which showed a direct correlation not between ulcers and stomach cancer but between H pylori and stomach cancer 1.
The good news is that incidences of stomach cancer in the developed world where hygiene and good sanitation are practiced, has halved in the last two decades. This has been attributed, at least in part, to the reduction of transference of H pylori. However in parts of the world where H pylori is prevalent and hygiene practices are not so good, incidence rates of stomach cancer are still on the increase.
Of course this does not mean that simply because you have an H pylori infection you will develop either ulcers or stomach cancer, it simply means that the possibility is increased. Out of all the people who do develop stomach cancer, 5% are thought to have an H pylori infection.
Yet the risks of gastric disturbance are enough for many people to take precautions to try and ensure they will never contract H pylori in the first place and, in a later article, I suggest ways of helping you do this.