Updated January. 23, 2014 06:56
Stomach cancer will become a rare disease 10 years from now.
The rate of "helicobacter pylori" infection among Koreans is shown to have declined significantly over the past 13 years (19982011). With a drop in the infection rate of helicobacter pylori, the incidence of stomach cancer, which is the most common type of cancer among Korean men (second common overall including both men and women), is also expected to significantly decline in tandem.
According to a research paper entitled The infection rate of helicobacter pylori and risk factors among Koreans for 13 years" published on Wednesday by a research team led by Prof. Kim Na-yeong at Seoul National University Bundang Hospital, the infection rate dropped by 12.5 percentage points from 66.9 percent in 1998 to 54.4 percent in 2011. The research team surveyed helicobacter pylori infection among 10,796 men and women aged 16 or older who had health checkup at medical institutions nationwide in 2011, and compared the data with those of 1998 and 2005.
According to the paper, the risk factors that illustrate the possibility for helicobacter pylori infection were male, advanced age, high cholesterol level, low income level, and residency in rural areas. In fact, in the 2011 statistics, the infection rate among males stood at 57.1 percent, 5.9 percentage points higher than 51.2 percent among females. By region, the infection rate sharply declined in the Seoul metropolitan region (Seoul and Gyeonggi Province) thanks to rapid urbanization.
People with low education level and low income level also displayed a higher infection rate. In the 2011 survey, the infection rate of people with middle school or lower level education came to 63.9 percent, which was 11.6 percentage points higher than those with university or higher education level at 52.3 percent.
The research team singled out improved hygiene as a major cause for the drop in helicobacter pylori infection rate. The bacteria is transmitted due to sharing of soup, chewing rice and foods to feed young children, "mouth to mouth contact" or contaminated water and food. Notably, children under age 10 with a weak immune system are commonly infected.
The drop in helicobacter pylori infection is a positive development that could eventually reduce cancer morbidity rate. This is because the bacterium was proven to be No. 1 cause of chronic superficial gastritis, atrophic gastritis, and intestinal metaplasia, pre-steps to stomach cancer. Notably, more than 95 percent of stomach cancer patients are found to be infected with the bacteria. Prof. Kim said, In advanced countries including the U.S., Australia, and Japan, a drop in helicobacter pylori infection rate to a 20 to 30 percent level resulted in a decline in stomach cancer morbidity. Korea is also expected to see a similar trend.
The reason the stomach cancer morbidity rate did not change significantly during the period surveyed is due to increased early diagnosis of stomach cancer amid the galvanizing of medical checkups, Kim said. However, the stomach cancer morbidity will significantly decline within the next 10 years in the wake of a drop in helicobacter pylori infection rate.