Learn About Stomach Cancer

How Preventable Is Stomach Cancer?

AICR estimates that if Americans cut out processed meat, did not drink excessive amounts of alcohol and stayed a healthy weight, we could cut the number of cases of stomach cancer that occur in the U.S. by 15 percent.

This means that if we all ate meals featuring more plant foods (especially fruits and non-starchy vegetables) roughly 4,000 cases every year would never have to happen (based on 2016 incidence data).


What Are Stomach Cancer’s Major Risk Factors?

Diet: Processed meat increases risk; these meats include bacon, hot dogs and sausage.

Alcohol: Drinking 3 or more alcoholic drinks per day increases risk.

Age: Most cases are diagnosed in people over 50.

H pylori Infection: The bacterium Heliobacter pylori (H plyori) increases risk for stomach cancer, as it damages the stomach lining.
Smoking: Tobacco use increases risk of stomach cancer and many other cancers.

How Common Is Stomach Cancer?

Stomach cancer (also known as gastric cancer) is not as common in the United States as it is the developing world. Approximately 26,370 cases of stomach cancer occur in the U.S. each year.


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Focus On The Risk Factors You Control

To lower your risk of stomach cancer, focus on replacing processed meats with healthy choices, drinking moderate amounts of alcohol – if any – and eating a diet high in plant foods to help you stay a healthy weight.

Eat More:

  • Vegetables: Choose non-starchy options like tomatoes, leafy green, peppers and carrots. Allium vegetables (onions, garlic, leeks, chives, scallions) are specifically linked to lower risk for stomach cancer.
  • Fruits: Eat a variety of fruits, whether fresh or frozen. Limit juices to 1 cup or less per day.

Eat Less:

Processed Meats: Hot dogs, bacon, and packaged deli meats are all considered processed meat.

  • AICR's Foods That Fight CancerTM

    AICR’s new web resource keeps you up-to-date about the latest research on foods that belong at the center of your New American Plate.

Note: The effect of salt-preserved foods on stomach cancer risk is more pronounced among those with H pylori infection. If you suffer from stomach ulcers, discuss getting tested for H pylori infection with your healthcare provider; treatment is available.)

A good rule of thumb:

Always fill at least 2/3 of your plate with plant foods, and let animal foods (meat and dairy) take up the rest.


What the Research Shows


PROBABLE Effect on Risk Salt-preserved foods
Excess body fatness*
Alcoholic drinks
Processed meats**
Source: Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective, 2007.
*cardia (upper) stomach cancers; **non-cardia (lower) stomach cancers

What’s the Link?

Alcoholic drinks RAISE Risk for Stomach Cancer

Three or more alcoholic drinks (more than 1.5 ounces of pure alcohol) per day, every day, increases the risk. Alcohol is metabolized into acetaldehyde, which is a carcinogen. Research shows that alcohol is particularly harmful when combined with smoking.

Processed meats RAISE Risk for Stomach Cancer

Every 1.8 ounces (50 grams) of hot dogs or other processed meat per day, every day increases risk of cancers of the lower stomach (non-cardia) increases by 18 percent. There are several reason why processed meats could increase risk. One hypothesis is that the preservatives in these meats, such as nitrates and nitrites, lead to carcinogenic compounds, which damage the stomach lining in a way that could lead to cancer.

Excess Body Fat Raises Colorectal Cancer Risk

Being overweight and obese, which increases the risk of lower (non-cardia) stomach cancers, can increase levels of insulin and other hormones that encourage the growth of cancer. Excess body fat also creates a pro-inflammatory environment in the body that can contribute to the growth of cancer.

Salt-preserved foods RAISE Risk for Stomach Cancer

Salt-preserved foods -- such as meat and fish, and salt-preserved vegetables -- especially when accompanied by H pylori bacteria, irritates the lining of the stomach over time in ways that make the cancer process more likely.

    For related AICR supported studies visit our research section.

    Looking Forward


    If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with stomach cancer you will face many everyday questions. AICR can help.

    AICR's CancerResource: A Program for Those Living with Cancer is a free toolkit of information specifically for the newly diagnosed cancer patient. Developed with an Advisory Committee of experts, AICR CancerResource's offers worksheets and guidance on eating and being active both during and after treatment.

    You can download the digital toolkit for free. To see inside pages and purchase a hardcopy of the handbook, visit our store.

    Visit our section for Cancer Survivors for more resources and information.

    Join the fight against cancer

    Join the Fight Against Stomach Cancer

    Stomach cancer is too often a deadly disease, yet the choices we make every day could prevent about half of the cases that occur each year.  

    Your support for AICR's cancer research, survivorship, and education programs will help us get one step closer to preventing stomach cancer and saving lives.

    Your gift will help fund emerging research on stomach cancer and other cancers and improve the quality of health for stomach cancer patients and survivors.

    Honor Someone Facing Stomach Cancer

    Make a gift in memory of a loved one. Your gift will help fund research and survivorship programs for those with stomach cancer and other cancers for years to come.

    Give in Memory of a Loved One

    Make a gift in memory of a loved one. Your gift will help fund research and survivorship programs for those with stomach cancer and other cancers for years to come.