Serological markers of gastritis, like pepsinogen A, pepsinogen C, gastrin, and Helicobacter pylori antibodies, can be used to explore the state of the gastric mucosa in populations with contrasting cancer risks. A decreasing pepsinogen A:C ratio and an increasing serum gastrin are known to reflect an increasing severity of atrophic corpus gastritis, which is a precursor of gastric cancer. In 723 subjects (without gastroduodenal surgery) from Japanese (n = 225) and Dutch (n = 498) working populations, which had a similar composition of age (mean 48 years), sex (male to female ratio 6:1), and type of occupation, fasting serum samples were analysed for IgG antibodies to H pylori, pepsinogen A, pepsinogen C, and gastrin in the same laboratory. H pylori infection was significantly more prevalent in the Japanese than in the Dutch (74.7% and 31.3%); as was a very low pepsinogen A, indicative of severe mucosal atrophy (4.4% and 1.6%). Among subjects with and without severe mucosal atrophy the H pylori seropositivity rate was similar. Between the Japanese and the Dutch there were significant differences in mean gastrin (31.8 and 13.4 pmol/l) and pepsinogen A:C ratio (1.7 and 2.9). These intercountry differences were as great for H pylori negative subjects (gastrin: 23.7 and 10.3 pmol/l, pepsinogen A:C ratio: 2.4 and 3.2) as for H pylori positive subjects (gastrin: 34.6 and 20.1 pmol/l, pepsinogen A:C ratio: 1.5 and 2.5). The intercountry difference in gastrin nearly disappeared after stratification into categories of pepsinogen A:C ratio. In conclusion, the intercountry differences in pepsinogen A:C ratio and gastrin reflect a higher prevalence of mild and severe mucosal atrophy of the corpus in the Japanese than in the Dutch, both among H pylori positive and negative subjects. Thus, these findings suggest that in the Japanese the development of atrophic gastritis is in part unrelated to H pylori.
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