Targeting the bacteria Helicobacter pylori with a short course of combination therapy may help decrease the risk of gastric cancer, new study findings published in the Cochrane Library suggest.

Researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of all published randomized controlled trials that compared at least one week of H. pylori therapy, with placebo or no treatment, in healthy and asymptomatic H. pylori-positive adults to assess whether eradicating H. pylori could reduce the incidence of gastric cancer. The final review included six trials, which included close to 6,500 patients. The studies included a combination of antibiotics with proton pump inhibitors that suppress gastric acid production. Study authors found that this combination therapy given for 1–2 weeks prevented the development of gastric acid vs. placebo or no treatment. Specifically, 1.6% of patients treated for H. pylori developed gastric cancer vs. 2.4% of patients untreated or given a placebo.

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Study findings support the existing research that eliminating H. pylori in the general population can potentially prevent gastric cancer, researchers concluded. More studies are needed on the extent of the effect and any possible harms that are associated with H. pylori treatment.

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