That heartburn or sour stomach you are experiencing may be an early warning sign. Upper digestive problems can be a precursor to something much worse. Gastric cancer, also known as stomach cancer, kills up to a million people annually worldwide. Scientists still do not fully understand why some people get gastric cancer and others don’t but recent research has provided clues about how some stomach cancers form.
Helicobacter pylori, the bacterium linked to ulcers, have been implicated in stomach cancers, including adenocarcinoma and gastric mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphoma.
A stomach ulcer is an open sore in the stomach and or small intestine that can form when H. pylori bacteria, particularly certain subtypes, convert some of the chemicals in some foods into chemicals that cause mutations or changes in the DNA of the cells in the stomach lining. This may explain why certain foods, preserved meats for example, increase a person's risk for stomach cancer. Likewise, some of the foods that lower stomach cancer risk contain antioxidants, which can block substances that damage a cell's DNA.
Most cases of H. pylori infection are often longstanding. Such an infection typically produces no signs or symptoms, but symptoms can occur, including stomach pain or burning, nausea, vomiting, frequent burping, bloating and weight loss. It is recommended if you have any of these symptoms for two weeks or more you should seek medical care. Your health care provider will decide if testing for the infection is prudent.
A longstanding H. pylori infection can lead to chronic inflammation of the stomach, which can result in loss of normal gastric tissue and replace it with intestinal and fibrous tissues. This transformation of the normal stomach tissue increases the risk for cancer development, said Dr. Neena S. Abraham, a gastroenterologist at the Michael E. DeBakey V.A. Medical Center and associate professor of medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
“H. pylori alone does not lead to stomach cancer; other factors, like genetic susceptibility, are also necessary for the condition to develop,” she said.