BACKGROUND: Infection with Helicobacter pylori is an established risk factor for gastric cancer. Results from two studies suggest that it may also be a risk factor for pancreatic cancer. METHODS: We conducted a nested case control study among 128,992 adult subscribers to the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program who had been enrolled in a multiphasic health checkup from 1964 to 1969. Serum collected during the checkup was maintained frozen, and subjects were followed for cancer. Cases consisted of 104 randomly selected subjects among 507 who developed pancreatic cancer in the cohort. Controls consisted of 262 pancreatic cancer-free subjects from a pool of 730 controls previously tested for studies conducted on this cohort. Controls were individually matched to cases on age, gender, race, site, and date of multiphasic health checkup. Control sera were compared with cases for antibodies to H. pylori and the CagA protein. The effects of smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity, and years of education were also investigated. RESULTS: Neither H. pylori [odds ratio (OR), 0.85; 95% confidence interval (95% CI), 0.49-1.48] nor its CagA protein (OR, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.48-1.92) was associated with subsequent development of pancreatic cancer. Smoking (OR, 2.09; 95% CI, 1.17-3.74) and greater number of years of education (OR, 2.13; 95% CI, 1.23-3.69) were risk factors for pancreatic cancer, whereas alcohol consumption and obesity were not. CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that H. pylori infection is not associated with development of pancreatic cancer.