Does H.pylori cause cancer?

  • Infection with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) increases the risk of some types of cancer, including stomach cancer.
     
  • H. pylori causes a very small number of cancer cases in the UK. For most people, a H. pylori infection will not cause any problems.
     
  • There are lots of ways you can lower your cancer risk. These include stopping smoking, keeping a healthy weight, staying safe in the sun, cutting down on alcohol, and eating a healthy, balanced diet.

What is Helicobacter pylori?

Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a type of bacteria that infects the lining of the stomach. Research is still ongoing into how H. pylori infections are spread and how the infection may affect the body.

It is thought to be spread from person to person and through contaminated food and water. Often, people who are infected with H. pylori got it during childhood.

For most people, infection with H. pylori will not cause them any problems and so will not require treatment. But it can be a cause of ongoing indigestion, bloating or nausea.

If you're experiencing these symptoms or are worried that you might have an infection, speak to your doctor.

H. pylori can be detected with a blood test, breath test or by testing a sample of your poo. The infection can be treated with a treatment plan of antibiotics and other medicines. It’s important to complete the full treatment as instructed by your doctor.

You can find more information about H. pylori on the Guts UK website.

 

Does H. pylori cause cancer?

H. pylori causes a very small number of cancer cases in the UK. In most people, a H. pylori infection will not cause cancer. But it can cause stomach cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. We need more research to know if H. pylori increases the risk of any other types of cancer.

H. pylori increases the risk of stomach cancer.

H. pylori can cause stomach cancer. As H. pylori infection has become less common in the UK, we have also seen less cases of stomach cancer.

H. pylori increases the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma

H. pylori can cause a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the stomach, called mucosa associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphoma. H. pylori causes a very small number of all non-Hodgkin lymphoma cases in the UK.

 

Infection with H. pylori increases the risk of some types of cancer, but it doesn’t mean you will definitely develop cancer. It’s important to remember a person’s risk of cancer depends on many different things. There are healthy changes you can make to lower your risk of cancer such as not smoking, keeping a healthy weight, staying safe in the sun, cutting down on alcohol and eating a healthy, balanced diet.

 

How does H. pylori cause cancer?

H. pylori can cause stomach ulcers and long-lasting irritation, swelling and pain in the stomach (known as ‘severe chronic atrophic gastritis’ or SCAG). This can lead on to cancer.

Researchers think some types of H. pylori are more likely to cause cancer than others. Factors such as smoking and the diet we eat may also play a part in whether a H. pylori infection will lead to stomach cancer.

 

International Agency for Research on Cancer. IARC Monograph 100B: Biological Agents. (2012)

Brown KF, Rumgay H, Dunlop C, et al. The fraction of cancer attributable to modifiable risk factors in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the United Kingdom in 2015. Br J Cancer. (2018)

World Gastroenterology Organisation. World Gastroenterology Organisation Global Guidelines: Helicobacter pylori. (2021)

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