Cancer Connection


Helicobacter pylori is linked to gastritis, ulcers and stomach cancer, and is found in about half of the world’s population. It is the only bacterium that causes cancer.

Iron deficiency has also been known to increase the risk of stomach cancer, but it was not clear whether it was linked to the bacteria. Now it has been found that low iron accelerates H pylori-induced cancers in gerbils and humans.

In anaemic people the bacterium becomes highly virulent and is able to produce greater inflammation than in people with normal iron levels. However, over 80 per cent of individuals infected with the bacterium do not show any symptoms and it is considered to play an important role in the natural stomach ecology.

This suggests that iron levels could be used to identify patients at a higher risk of stomach cancer after H pylori infection.


Down To Earth, January 2013