Did you know?
The number of new diagnosed cases of cancer in England continues to rise and in 2015 there were almost 300,000 cancers registered – an equivalent to 822 per day. Breast (15.4%), prostate (13.4%), lung (12.5%) and colorectal (11.6%) cancer continue to account for over half of the malignant cancer registrations in England for all ages combined. (1) (4)
Until the late 1930s, stomach cancer was the leading cause of cancer death. The reasons for such a decline of stomach cancer over the past several decades are not completely known, but may be linked to increased use of refrigeration for food storage. This made fresh fruits and vegetables more available and decreased the use of salted and smoked foods. Some doctors think the decline may also be linked to the frequent use of antibiotics to treat infections. Antibiotics can kill the bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H pylori), which is thought to be a major cause of stomach cancer.
Stomach cancer mostly affects older people. The average age of people when they are diagnosed is 69. About 6 of every 10 people diagnosed with stomach cancer each year are 65 or older. The average risk that a person will develop stomach cancer in their lifetime is about 1 in 111. This risk is higher in men than in women, and can also be affected by a number of other factors.
Types of stomach cancers
Stomach cancer, also called gastric cancer, is a cancer that starts in the stomach, which usually begins in the mucus-producing cells that line the stomach. This type of cancer is called adenocarcinoma. About 90% to 95% of cancers of the stomach are adenocarcinomas. (1)
Lymphoma: These are cancers of the immune system tissue that are sometimes found in the wall of the stomach. About 4% of stomach cancers are lymphomas.
Gastrointestinal stromal tumour (GIST): These are rare tumours that start in very early forms of cells in the wall of the stomach called interstitial cells of Cajal. Some of these tumours are non-cancerous (benign); others are cancerous. Although GISTs can be found anywhere in the digestive tract, most are found in the stomach.
Carcinoid tumour: These are tumours that start in hormone-making cells of the stomach. Most of these tumours do not spread to other organs. About 3% of stomach cancers are carcinoid tumours.
Other cancers: Squamous cell carcinoma, small cell carcinoma, and leiomyosarcoma, can also start in the stomach, but these cancers are very rare.
Stomach cancers tend to develop slowly over many years. Before a true cancer develops, pre-cancerous changes often occur in the inner lining (mucosa) of the stomach. These early changes rarely cause symptoms and therefore often go undetected. (2) (3)
Signs and symptoms of stomach cancer may include:
- Feeling bloated after eating
- Feeling full after eating small amounts of food
- Severe, persistent heartburn
- Severe indigestion that is always present
- Unexplained, persistent nausea
- Stomach pain
- Persistent vomiting
- Unintentional weight loss
Possible Risk Factors
- Helicobacter Pylori Infection
- Epstein Barr Virus
- Diet – high in salty and smoked foods and low in fruits and vegetables
- Being overweight/obese
- Tobacco use
- Pernicious anaemia
- Common variable immune deficiency (CVID)
- Family history/genetics
Prevention: Diet, nutrition, body weight, and physical activity
- Exercise: maintaining a healthy weight throughout life by balancing calorie intake with physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of stomach cancer. Try to fit physical activity into your day most days of the week.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables.Try to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet each day. Choose a wide variety of colourful fruits and vegetables. Citrus fruits (such as oranges, lemons, and grapefruit) may be especially helpful. Important: grapefruit and grapefruit juice can change the blood levels of certain drugs you take, so it’s important to discuss this with your health care team before adding grapefruit to your diet.
- Choosing whole-grain breads, pastas, and cereals instead of refined grains, and eating fish, poultry, or beans instead of processed meat and red meat may also help lower your risk of cancer.
- Reduce the amount of salty and smoked foods you eat.Protect your stomach by limiting these foods.
- Drinking tea, particularly green tea, may help protect against stomach cancer, most large studies have not found such a link. (7) (8)
- Stop smoking: Smoking increases your risk of stomach cancer, as well as many other types of cancer. (9)
- Supplementation: Studies that have looked at using dietary supplements to lower stomach cancer risk have had mixed results so far. Some studies have suggested that combinations of antioxidant supplements (vitamins A, C, and E and the mineral selenium) might reduce the risk of stomach cancer in people with poor nutrition to begin with. But most studies looking at people who have good nutrition have not found any benefit to adding vitamin pills to their diet. Further research in this area is needed. (5) (6)
NB: Remember to always consult a nutritional therapist or medical practitioner before starting a supplement regime as some medication may be affected with certain supplements.
- Praud, D., Parpinel, M., Serafini, M., Bellocco, R., Tavani, A., Lagiou, P., La Vecchia, C. and Rossi, M., 2015. Non-enzymatic antioxidant capacity and risk of gastric cancer. Cancer epidemiology, 39(3), pp.340-345. http://www.journals.elsevierhealth.com/article/S1877-7821(15)00084-3/fulltext
- Li, P., Zhang, H., Chen, J., Shi, Y., Cai, J., Yang, J. and Wu, Y., 2014. Association between dietary antioxidant vitamins intake/blood level and risk of gastric cancer. International journal of cancer, 135(6), pp.1444-1453. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ijc.28777/full
- Yuan, J.M., 2013. Cancer prevention by green tea: evidence from epidemiologic studies. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 98(6), pp.1676S-1681S. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/98/6/1676S.full
- Hou, I.C., Amarnani, S., Chong, M.T. and Bishayee, A., 2013. Green tea and the risk of gastric cancer: epidemiological evidence. World journal of gastroenterology: WJG, 19(24), p.3713. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3699047/
- Peleteiro, B., Castro, C., Morais, S., Ferro, A. and Lunet, N., 2015. Worldwide burden of gastric cancer attributable to tobacco smoking in 2012 and predictions for 2020. Digestive diseases and sciences, 60(8), pp.2470-2476. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Barbara_Peleteiro/publication/273446099_Erratum_to_Worldwide_Burden_of_Gastric_Cancer_Attributable_to_Tobacco_Smoking_in_2012_and_Predictions_for_2020/links/551be1610cf2909047b97326/Erratum-to-Worldwide-Burden-of-Gastric-Cancer-Attributable-to-Tobacco-Smoking-in-2012-and-Predictions-for-2020.pdf