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April 21, 2016 | 5 minute read

For First Time, Major Scientific Report Links Alcohol, Processed Meat and Obesity to Stomach Cancers

  • Drinking three alcoholic drinks or more per day increases the risk of stomach cancers
  • Eating processed meat increases the risk of stomach cancer
  • Being overweight or obese increases the risk of stomach cancer

WASHINGTON DC – For the first time, a systematic review of the global research has found that drinking alcohol, eating processed meat and being overweight increase the risk of developing stomach cancers. The report was released today by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).

The report Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Stomach Cancer, which shows that drinking three or more alcoholic drinks (more than 1.5 ounces of pure alcohol) per day, every day, increases the risk of stomach cancers. The risk is most apparent in men, as well as in smokers and ex-smokers.

New Dietary Guidelines: Helping You With Plant Foods, Added Sugar; Misses Mark on Meat – See more at: http://www.aicr.org/2016/01/07/new-dietary-guidelines-helping-you-with-plant-foods-added-sugar-misses-mark-on-meat/#sthash.geWVTe3c.dpuf

The report also found that for every 1.8 ounces (50 grams) of processed meat eaten per day, every day – the equivalent of one hot dog – the risk of cancers of the lower stomach (non-cardia)* increases by 18 percent. This finding adds to the current evidence on processed meat, which also increases the risk of colorectal cancer.

New evidence in the report also links cancers of the upper stomach (cardia) to being overweight or obese, bringing the types of cancers now linked to carrying excess body fat to eleven. The report shows a 23 percent increased risk of cardia stomach cancer** per every five-unit-increase in Body Mass Index.

The report collated and analyzed the scientific research available globally on stomach cancer, diet, physical activity and weight in the first such review since 2007. Eighty-nine studies were looked at, covering 17.5 million adults, of whom 77,000 were diagnosed with stomach cancers.

Worldwide there are approximately one million new stomach cancer cases each year, making it the fifth most common cancer and the third biggest cancer killer. In the US, about one in seven (15 percent) stomach cancer cases could be prevented if people did not drink more than three alcoholic drinks a day, did not eat processed meat and were a healthy weight. That’s approximately 4,000 stomach cancer cases every year.

Alice Bender, MS, RDN, Head of Nutrition Programs at AICR, said:
“This report is a real wake-up call. Obesity is now linked to eleven types of cancer and we want Americans to know there are steps everyone can take for cancer prevention and better health, like eating more vegetables, beans, fruits and other plant foods along with squeezing in a few more steps every day.”

CUP Panel lead expert Prof. Michael Leitzmann of the University of Regensburg said:
“The findings of this latest evidence report from AICR/WCRF are groundbreaking and show there is strong evidence linking the risk of developing stomach cancers to a number of different lifestyle factors, such as drinking alcohol and eating processed meat.

“The evidence from this current report will help the public and the health community better understand what can influence the risk of developing stomach cancers. It is an invaluable contribution to the growing evidence that exists on cancer prevention.”

The evidence linking added salt to stomach cancer has changed and is now less strong. However, eating too much salt cannot be ruled out as a risk for stomach cancer and it is still a health concern. AICR recommends consuming no more than six grams of salt per day – the equivalent of one teaspoon.

Join AICR on Twitter at 11am ET on April 21st for Q&As on the new stomach cancer report. Follow @aicrtweets using #StomachCancer to take part.


Additional Resources:

Obesity and Cancer Prevention (Infographic)

Preventing Stomach Cancer (Infographic)

Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Stomach Cancer


Notes to editors:

  • About stomach cancers. Stomach cancers are classified into two main types according to where in the stomach they arise. These types have some different risk factors and affect different populations.

*Non-cardia cancer
Non-cardia cancer involves all the stomach except for the top portion called the cardia. Non-cardia stomach cancer is common in Asia and associated with H. pylori infection.
**Cardia cancer
The cardia is located at the top of the stomach, where it meets the esophagus. Cardia stomach cancer is more common in high-income countries where rates are increasing. This is in part due to the fact this form of cancer is related to being overweight and is associated with chronic gastro-esophageal reflux. Being overweight puts pressure on the abdomen, which pressurizes the sphincter at the top of the stomach and causes acid to escape.

  • US CUP Panel Members: Elisa Bandera, MD PhD, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey; Steven Clinton, MD PhD, The Ohio State University; Edward Giovannucci, MD ScD, Harvard School of Public Health; Stephen Hursting, PhD MPH, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill; Anne McTiernan, MD PhD, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
  • About the Continuous Update Project

The Continuous Update Project (CUP) monitors and analyzes research on cancer prevention from around the world and draws conclusions on how lifestyle factors such as weight, diet and physical activity can reduce the risk of developing cancer. A panel of independent experts assesses if the scientific evidence has changed and if this impacts AICR’s Recommendations for Cancer Prevention. All previous reports can be found here: https://www.aicr.org/continuous-update-project/.

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