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May 5, 2016 | 3 minute read

Preventing Stomach Cancer, and Many Others

If you’ve read about stomach cancer lately there’s a good chance it related to AICR’s latest report, which looked at the risks of this cancer. The report’s three major findings – that alcohol, processed meats and obesity increase the risk for stomach cancers – are entirely new.

Here in the US, if people did not have more than three alcoholic drinks a day, did not eat processed meat and were a healthy weight, an estimated one in seven stomach cancer cases could be prevented. That’s approximately 4,000 stomach cancer cases every year that would not happen.

The report adds to an emerging pattern in cancer research: Habits to reduce the risk of one cancer can also help you prevent many others.

Here’s how you can use the report’s key takeaways on stomach cancer to prevent breast, colorectal and many other of the most common cancers.

1. Get to and stay a healthy weight  
Evidence in the new report makes stomach cancer the 11th cancer linked to being overweight or obese. Other cancers linked to excess body fat include colorectal, post-menopausal breast and ovarian.

Aside from not smoking, staying a healthy weight is the single biggest factor linked to cancer risk. The report brings the number of cancers caused by overweight and obesity up to 370 US cases each day. Every day.

For more on getting to and staying a healthy weight, sign up for AICR’s next New American Plate Challenge and follow along the current one.

2. Cut your hot dogs, bacon and other processed meats
Stomach cancer is now the second cancer linked to eating processed meats regularly, even small amounts. Previous AICR research found convincing evidence that processed meat is a cause of colorectal caner, the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States.

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.

Try replacing processed with fresh meats, or non-meat proteins, such as beans and eggs.

Want to test yourself on how much you know about processed meats? Take the quiz.

3. If you do enjoy alcohol, drink moderately
Drinking three alcoholic drinks or more per day increases the risk of stomach cancers, the report concluded. The risk is most apparent in men, as well as smokers and ex-smokers.

Stomach cancer joins a group of others linked to drinking alcohol, including cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, breast, liver and colorectal cancer. And, like stomach cancer, research shows that alcohol is particularly harmful when combined with smoking.

For cancer prevention, AICR recommends not to drink alcohol. Modest amounts of alcohol may play a protective role in heart disease. For those who do drink, AICR recommends that men have no more than two drinks a day and women no more than one a day.

Here’s the standard definition of a drink.

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