According to the results of a study conducted in the Netherlands and published in the journal Gut, the frequency of precancerous changes to the stomach (atrophic gastritis, intestinal metaplasia, and dysplasia) is declining; this should result in a drop in stomach cancer rates in the future.

Cancer of the stomach is called gastric cancer. Gastric adenocarcinoma is the most common type of stomach cancer. It arises from the cells that line the surface of the stomach. An important risk factor for gastric cancer is infection with the bacterium Helicobacter Pylori (H. pylori).

Many gastric cancers are believed to be preceded by precancerous changes to the stomach. These changes include atrophic gastritis, intestinal metaplasia, and dysplasia.

To explore trends over time in the frequency of precancerous changes to the stomach, researchers in the Netherlands evaluated information from a nationwide pathology registry. For the period from 1991 to 2005, the registry included 23,278 patients diagnosed with atrophic gastritis, 65,937 patients diagnosed with intestinal metaplasia, and 8517 patients diagnosed with dysplasia.

  • The incidence of atrophic gastritis and dysplasia declined by roughly 8% per year among both men and women.
  • The incidence of intestinal metaplasia declined by 2.9% per year in men and 2.4% per year in women.

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The decline in precancerous changes to the stomach may be due to declining rates of infection with H. pylori.

According to the researchers, rates of stomach cancer in Western countries may decline by roughly 24% in the coming decade as a result of the decline in precancerous stomach changes.

Reference: de Vries AC, Meijer GA, Looman CWN et al. Epidemiological trends of pre-malignant gastric lesions: a long-term nationwide study in the Netherlands. Gut [early online publication]; August 14, 2007.

Related News:Airborne Exposure to Some Chemicals May Increase Stomach Cancer Risk (03/14/2007)

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