Stomach Cancer Prevention

Last Editorial Review: 1/5/2006

Doctors cannot always explain why one person gets cancer and another doesn't. However, scientists have studied general patterns of cancer in the population to learn what things around us and what things we do in our lives may increase our chance of developing cancer.

Anything that increases a person's chance of developing a disease is called a risk factor; anything that decreases a person's chance of developing a disease is called a protective factor. Some of the risk factors for cancer can be avoided, but many cannot. For example, although you can choose to quit smoking, you cannot choose which genes you have inherited from your parents. Both smoking and inheriting specific genes could be considered risk factors for certain kinds of cancer, but only smoking can be avoided. Prevention means avoiding the risk factors and increasing the protective factors that can be controlled so that the chance of developing cancer decreases.

Although many risk factors can be avoided, it is important to keep in mind that avoiding risk factors does not guarantee that you will not get cancer. Also, most people with a particular risk factor for cancer do not actually get the disease. Some people are more sensitive than others are to factors that can cause cancer. Talk to your doctor about methods of preventing cancer that might be effective for you.

Purposes of this summary on stomach cancer

The purposes of this summary on stomach cancer (gastric cancer) prevention are to:

  • Give information on gastric cancer and how often it occurs.
  • Describe gastric cancer prevention methods.
  • Give current facts about which people or groups of people would most likely be helped by following gastric cancer prevention methods.

You can talk to your doctor or health care professional about cancer prevention methods and whether these methods would be likely to help you.

Gastric cancer is cancer of the stomach. The most common type of stomach cancer is gastric adenocarcinoma, or cancer of the glandular tissue in the stomach. Other rarer forms of stomach cancer include lymphomas (cancer involving the lymphatic system) and sarcomas (cancer of the connective tissue, such as muscle, fat, or blood vessels).

Significance of stomach cancer

Over most of the century, the frequency of gastric cancer has been decreasing. Over the past several years, the number of new cases of gastric cancer in the United States seems to be steady, while the number of deaths has greatly decreased. There has continued to be a decrease in cancer arising in the part of the stomach that is closest to the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). However, cancer at the junction between the esophagus and stomach is on the increase.

Stomach cancer (gastric) prevention

Gastric cancer can sometimes be associated with known risk factors for the disease. Many risk factors are modifiable though not all can be avoided.

  • Diet and Lifestyle : Excessive salt intake has been identified as a possible risk factor for gastric cancer. Having a high intake of fresh fruits and vegetables may be associated with a decreased risk of gastric cancer. Studies have suggested that eating foods that contain beta-carotene and vitamin C may decrease the risk of gastric cancer, especially if intake of micronutrients is inadequate.
  • Pre-existing Conditions: Infection with a certain bacteria, Helicobacter pylori, is associated with an increased risk of gastric cancer. Long-standing reflux of gastric contents and the development of an abnormal cellular lining is also associated with an increased risk of cancer at the junction of the stomach and esophagus.

Source: National Cancer Institute,


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