Learn More About Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer – also known as gastric cancer – is the fifth most common cancer worldwide and is more common in the developing world. Men are twice as likely as women to develop stomach cancer, and it is more common in older adults.

The stomach is part of the digestive system, located between the esophagus and the small intestine. It secretes enzymes and gastric acid to aid in food digestion, as well as the intrinsic factor necessary for absorption of vitamin B12, and acts as a receptacle for masticated food, which is sent to the small intestines though muscular contractions. The body of the stomach is lined with a mucous membrane consisting of columnar epithelial cells and glands, surrounded by muscle.

Stomach cardia cancer occurs at the top part of the stomach closest to the esophagus, and stomach non-cardia cancer occurs in all other areas of the stomach.

AICR’S latest report on stomach cancer found that maintaining a healthy weight can help lower cancer risk. Alcoholic drinks and processed meats are linked to a higher risk for stomach cancer.

Lifestyle and Stomach Cancer Risk

Weight: Excess body fatness puts you at greater risk for stomach cardia cancer.

  • Obesity is characterized by a low-grade chronic inflammatory state. Such chronic inflammation can promote cancer development.
  • Obesity also promotes gastric reflux, possibly caused by elevated intra-abdominal pressure, and transition to potentially precancerous Barrett’s esophagus. This increases the risk of both cardia stomach cancer and esophageal cancer.

Alcohol: Alcoholic drinks increase risk for all types of stomach cancer.

  • Three or more alcoholic drinks (more than 1.5 ounces of pure alcohol) per day, increases risk. 
  • Acetaldehyde, the reactive metabolite of alcohol, is carcinogenic to human.
  • Alcohol also acts as a solvent, enhancing penetration of carcinogens into cells. Alcohol has been demonstrated to interfere with retinoid metabolism, which may adversely affect cellular growth, cellular differentiation and apoptosis.
  • Heavy consumers of alcohol may also have diets deficient in essential nutrients, rendering tissues more susceptible to carcinogenesis.

Diet: Consuming foods preserved by salting is a probable cause of 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.
  • Research mainly relates to high-salt foods and salt-preserved foods, including pickled vegetables and salted or dried fish, as traditionally prepared in East Asia.

Other Factors:

  • Smoking: Smoking is a cause of stomach cancer. It is estimated that 11 per cent of cases worldwide are attributable to tobacco use.
  • Infection:  Helicobacter pylori infection is a cause of stomach non-cardia cancer.