Toronto: A short course of two medicines commonly used to eliminate the bacterium that causes ulcers may reduce the risk of stomach cancer, research shows.
Stomach, or gastric, cancer is the third most common cause of death from cancer worldwide, and people who are infected with the Helicobacter pylori bacterium are more likely to develop the disease.
It can be eradicated with a simple short course of antibiotics, often used with another medicine that suppresses the production of gastric acid.
"The findings of this systematic review add to the increasing evidence that eradicating H pylori in the general population has the potential to prevent gastric cancer," said study co-author Paul Moayyedi, professor of medicine at McMaster University in Canada.
"International guidelines for the management of H. pylori infection may change as a result," he said.
For the study, the researchers analysed all published randomised controlled trials which compared at least one week of H. pylori therapy with placebo or no treatment, in otherwise healthy and asymptomatic H. pylori-positive adults.
The review included only trials that followed participants for at least two years and that had at least two participants who developed gastric cancer.
Six trials with a total of nearly 6,500 participants met the researchers' criteria.
The studies mainly used a combination of antibiotics with medicines from a class of drugs that suppress gastric acid production (called proton pump inhibitors).
The researchers found that combining antibiotics with gastric acid suppressor therapy given for between one and two weeks prevented the development of gastric cancer compared with placebo or no treatment.
The review was made for the Cochrane Library.
"We feel our review provides sufficient evidence for countries with high gastric cancer rates to consider population H.pylori testing and treating," Moayyedi said.