Targeting the strain of bacteria that causes ulcers may help prevent stomach cancer, according to research led by the University of Leeds.
Stomach cancer, or gastric cancer as it is also known, is the third most common cause of death from cancer worldwide.
The Helicobacter pylori bacterium is found in about two-thirds of people worldwide, though many experience no discomfort or other symptoms.
Researchers from the School of Medicine found that a short course of combination therapy comprising two commonly-used medicines may help to reduce the risk of stomach cancer.
Lead researcher Dr Alexander Ford said: We tested whether treating H. pylori with a class of drugs known as proton pump inhibitors, which suppress gastric acid, given in combination with antibiotics for between one or two weeks was more effective than placebo or no treatment.
We assessed six trials with a total of nearly 6,500 participants, which had been conducted in Colombia, China and Japan.
We found that 51 people out of 3,294 (1.6%) given treatment developed stomach cancer, compared with 76 out of 3,203 (2.4%) given no treatment or placebo.
These findings add to the increasing evidence that eradicating H. pylori in the general population has the potential to prevent stomach cancer, but more testing is needed to determine any potential harm of H. pylori treatment before it can be advocated as a means of prevention for this form of cancer.
The research was published in the Cochrane Library.
For more information, contact Ben Jones in the University of Leeds press office on 0113 343 8059 or email B.P.Jones@leeds.ac.uk
The research paper, Helicobacter pylori eradication for the prevention of gastric neoplasia, by Ford et al, is available from the press office.
There were more than 7,000 new cases of stomach cancer in the UK in 2011 - Source: Cancer Research UK