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Lawrence Chow / ENT Doctor

New Studies Indicate H. Pylori Isn’t a Risk Factor for Head and Neck Cancer

New Studies Indicate H. Pylori Isn’t a Risk Factor for Head and Neck Cancer


Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) has long been considered one of the main risk factors for head and neck cancer. Since the mid-1980s the germ has been associated with head and neck cancer as much as it had been linked to ulcers and stomach cancer.


A new study however, shows that this concept might be wrong.


What is Helicobacter pylori?

  1. pylori is a type of bacteria and is quite common in food, eating utensils, and water. It is very common in dirty drinking water which is why most people contract it in places where clean water is not readily available.


However, the number of people infected with these bacteria is quite high. Around two-thirds of the world’s population already has it within their system; it just so happens that not everyone is prone to developing ulcers and further H. pylori complications.


For many years doctors assumed that ulcers were caused by smoking or from stress. It wasn’t until 1982 that the germ was discovered and then linked with ulcers and other digestive concerns.


There have been studies trying to link H. pylori to head and neck cancer, such as this one published by Mohamed Nasser Elsheikh, MD. This was because there have been traces of Helicobacter pylori in the lesions of patients suffering from head and neck squamous cell carcinoma or cancer.


In the years that followed the medical society also assumed that head and neck cancer was more prone to develop in people with the infection. However, one has to ask: if H. pylori is a common infectious germ then why hasn’t a higher ratio of people developed head and neck cancer?


This is what the new study sought to solve.


The Study Challenging This Concept

The new study was led by Dr. Gregoire B. Morand, MD, who hails from the University Hospital Zurich. He and his colleagues studied the upper aerodigestive tract and if there were significant impacts caused by H. pylori.

The study involved 56 patients diagnosed with head and neck cancer and 90 control patients who were all cancer-free. The methods used involved serology, rapid urease tests, as well as qPCR assays.


Surprisingly, the data showed that there was little difference between the control patients and those with developed head and neck cancer. The data indicates that there is little to no impact of having H. pylori in the potential development of head and neck cancer.


For the longest time H. pylori was associated as a risk factor for the development of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma but these results now put the concept into question. If the medical society has been wrong about this for so long then it would be time to put research in another direction.




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