Gastric cancer is a major contributor to cancer deaths in Zambia but, as elsewhere, no preventive strategies have been identified. We set out to investigate the possibility of reducing gastric atrophy, a premalignant lesion, using micronutrient-antioxidant supplementation.
We analysed 215 archival samples from a randomised controlled trial of micronutrient-antioxidant supplementation carried out from 2003 to 2006. Participants were randomised to receive either the supplement or placebo and had been taking the allocated intervention for a mean of 18 (range 14–27) months when the samples used in this study were taken. We used low pepsinogen 1 to 2 (PEP1:2) ratio as a surrogate marker of gastric atrophy. A PEP 1:2 ratio of less than three was considered low. HIV serology, age, nutritional status, smoking, alcohol intake and gastric pH were also analysed. Ethical approval was obtained from the University of Zambia Biomedical Research Ethics Committee (011-04-12). The randomized trial was registered (ISRCTN31173864).
The overall prevalence of low PEP 1:2 ratio was 15/215 (7%) and it did not differ between the placebo (8/103, 7.8%) and micronutrient groups (7/112, 6.3%; HR 1.24; 95% CI 0.47-3.3; P = 0.79). The presence of low PEP 1:2 ratio was not influenced by HIV infection (HR 1.07; 95% CI 0.37-3.2; P =0.89) or nutritional status but it inversely correlated with gastric pH (Spearman’s rho = -0.34; P = 0.0001). Age above 40 years was associated with atrophy, but neither alcohol nor smoking had any influence.