Embargoed for Release Until: Sunday, October 11, 1998, 6:00 p.m. Contact: Dana Victor Montenegro 202/973-5871 or [email protected]

Is Your Job Giving You an Ulcer? Two Studies Examine Occupational Exposure and Infection with H. pylori, the Bacterial Culprit in Many Ulcers and a Risk Factor for Gastric Cancer

Boston, MA, October 11, 1998 -- Gastric cancer patients working in food and industrial plant settings occupations were more likely to have been infected with Helicobacter pylori, the bacterium that causes most ulcers, according to a study at the Houston VA Medical Center, Baylor College of Medicine and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX released at the 63rd Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG).

Recent research suggests an increased risk of gastric cancer associated with certain occupational exposures. Robert Genta, MD and Mae Go, MD with the assistance of Adriana Babiek, MPH and Doris Sample, RN, examined a sample population of gastric cancer patients. Of the sample, two-thirds were infected with H. pylori. The patients were stratified by age, gender, race, educational experience as well as occupational background. High risk occupations included food services, meat processing plants, agricultural and industrial plants, while low risk occupations for exposure to H. pylori included administrative jobs or housework.

Statistical analyses revealed that when the sample was stratified by occupational exposure, those men over 60 with a high school education who worked in jobs classified as high risk demonstrated higher association between H. pylori infection and gastric cancer, suggesting a strong occupational link.

In another study conducted at the University of Miami, researchers tested 1st and 4th year medical students for exposure to H. pylori. Dr. Neil Stollman and Dr. Arvey Rogers, found a significantly increased prevalence of H. pylori infection among fourth year students, from one-third of the first-year students tested to 56% of fourth year students tested. These results support a possible occupational exposure during clinical training. The first and fourth year students were well-matched demographically, with the exception of the expected three-year age difference, with no significant differences between the students on variables that might be expected to influence risk of infection.

H. pylori infection is likely transmitted person-to-person. For several years, physicians have known that most ulcers arise because of the presence of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. Because H. pylori exists in the stomachs of some people who do not develop ulcers, scientists now believe that ulcers occur in persons who have a combination of a genetic predisposition, plus the presence of H. pylori. With medical treatment, usually a combination of antibiotics and acid suppressors, the vast majority of H. pylori induced ulcers can be cured.

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