Biomedicine

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Science  04 Sep 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5945, pp. 1183
DOI: 10.1126/science.325_1183b

Goblet cells (blue) in gastric mucosa.

CREDIT: LIU ET AL., GASTROENTEROLOGY 137, 10.1053/J.GASTRO.2009.07.041 (2009)

By some estimates, more than 50% of the world's population is infected by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, a gastrointestinal pathogen most famous for its role in the development of gastric ulcers. H. pylori infection is also a risk factor for gastric cancer, but because only a small percentage of infected individuals develop the disease, it would be of great interest to identify controllable lifestyle factors that might contribute to an enhanced risk of cancer. Correlative data from epidemiological studies have suggested a potential interaction between H. pylori infection and diet, but long-term human studies that would establish a cause-effect relationship are not feasible.

In a carefully controlled 5-year study of Rhesus monkeys that were monitored at frequent intervals by gastroscopy and biopsy, Liu et al. found that gastric neoplasia (precancerous and cancerous lesions) developed in H. pylori–infected animals that had also consumed a carcinogen similar to one found in pickled vegetables and smoked meats, but not in animals exposed to either the bacterium or the carcinogen alone. In terms of cancer prevention strategies, these findings underscore the importance of dietary awareness in individuals known to be infected with H. pylori.

Gastroenterology 137, 10.1053/j.gastro.2009.07.041 (2009).

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