Table of Contents Author Guidelines Submit a Manuscript
Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology
Volume 19, Issue 7, Pages 409-411
Helicobacter Pylori Consensus Update 2004

Will Treatment of Helicobacter Pylori Infection in Childhood Alter the Risk of Developing Gastric Cancer?

Billy Bourke

Children’s Research Centre, Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, Department of Paediatrics, Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Research and Dublin Molecular Medicine Centre, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland

Copyright © 2005 Canadian Association of Gastroenterology. This open-access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (CC BY-NC) (, which permits reuse, distribution, and reproduction of the article, provided that the original work is properly cited and the reuse is restricted to noncommercial purposes.


Helicobacter pylori has been classified as a group 1 carcinogen for gastric cancer. It is estimated that there is between a two- and sixfold increase in the risk of developing gastric cancer among infected patients. Among different populations, the risk of H pylori-infected individuals developing gastric cancer varies greatly. However, on a worldwide scale, gastric cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related death. Therefore, H pylori eradication could help prevent up to three to four million gastric cancer deaths per year. H pylori is usually acquired in childhood. Because infected children have not harboured the organism for long enough to have developed precancerous lesions, childhood is theoretically an attractive time for H pylori eradication and, thus, could help prevent gastric cancer later in life. However, as H pylori prevalence and the incidence of gastric cancer are falling rapidly in developed nations, widespread population screening programs aimed at the eradication of H pylori in these countries would be enormously expensive. Therefore, except in groups with a high risk for development of gastric cancer (eg, Japanese or those with a strong positive family history of gastric cancer), a population-based test-and-treat policy is not justified.