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Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 1998 Feb;12 Suppl 1:61-71.

Review article: Pathogenesis of the transformation from gastritis to malignancy.

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Department of Pathology, Jorvi Hospital, Espoo, Finland.


Helicobacter pylori acquisition is the main cause of chronic gastritis in humans. In up to half of the infected subjects, chronic gastritis progresses to atrophic gastritis and intestinal metaplasia. During this course, various mechanisms are triggered that may contribute to the pathogenesis of gastric cancer. Such mechanisms include the inflammation-related cascades of cytokine and free radical reactions, up- and downregulation of growth factors and their receptors, and the atrophy-related impairment of acid output and intraluminal acidity. An array of other factors may also have become significant including overgrowth of bacteria other than H. pylori in the hypochlorhydric or achlorhydric stomach, a high dietary consumption of salt, nitrate, or nitrite, smoking, deficiency of vitamins or micronutrients, influence of sex hormones, or an inherited liability of the dividing epithelial cells to gene errors. These factors may vary in effect between populations and individuals but, if active, may affect the cell genome which may further influence the course and progression of chronic gastritis, and can finally result in overt gastric neoplasia. The molecular biology of gastric cancer has revealed a spectrum of gene errors which vary in type and extent between different histological types of cancer, and between individual cases. There now is evidence that the intestinal metaplasia or the gastric epithelium in atrophic gastritis reveal signs of abnormal expression of various regulatory genes well before the appearance of gastric neoplasia. It is possible that the mechanisms leading to mutation of the genes in epithelial cells are triggered very early in the H. pylori gastritis cascade, and that atrophic gastritis and intestinal metaplasia result from these processes.

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