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IARC Sci Publ. 1997;(138):325-9.

Infection with Helicobacter pylori and parasites, social class and cancer.

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Unit of Environmental Cancer Epidemiology, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France.


Three genera of parasites are known or suspected risk factors for cancer in humans: Schistosoma, Opisthorchis and Clonorchis. No adequate information is available on the determinants of infections related to social class. Infection with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori is an important cause of stomach cancer. Studies, in particular from the United Kingdom and the United States of America, strongly suggest that social class factors, especially those acting during childhood, are determinants of the infection, with odds ratios of seroprevalence of the order of 1.5-5 for lower social class as compared with higher social class. A conservative estimate of the contribution of social class, acting through an increased prevalence of H. pylori infection, to the burden of stomach cancer gives a figure of over 50,000 stomach cancers per year worldwide, or 8% of all stomach cancers. In countries with both high and low prevalence of infection with H. pylori, it is likely that a sizeable proportion of this difference is due to social-class-related risk factors of infection.

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