Stomach cancer is cancer that starts anywhere inside the stomach or the stomach wall. It’s also called gastric cancer. The type of stomach cancer a person has depends on the type of cell it starts in. It is not known what causes most stomach cancers, but there are some factors that may increase your risk of developing it.
According to Macmillan UK, these eight risk factors could increase a person’s risk of developing the disease:
- Gender – Stomach cancer is more common in men.
- Age – 95 per cent of people who develop stomach cancer are over 50 years old.
- Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) – This common stomach infection can increase the risk of developing stomach cancer if it’s present over a long time.
- Diet – Not enough fruit and vegetables, and a diet high in processed meats or smoked foods can increase risk.
- Smoking – The longer a person smokes for and the more cigarettes they smoke, the greater the risk.
- Being overweight can increase the risk of certain stomach cancers.
- Stomach conditions – Long-term acid reflux or conditions which cause changes to the stomach lining may increase risk. If part of the stomach is removed during surgery for another condition (such as an ulcer), this can also increase risk.
- Family history – If a family member has stomach cancer, you might have a slightly higher risk.
- Genes – A very small number of families may have an inherited cancer gene that can increase risk.
As Cancer Research UK reported, lifestyle factors are linked to three out of four stomach cancers.
Evidence underscores the importance of maintaining a healthy diet.
One meta-analysis found that stomach cancer risk is 68 per cent higher in people with high salt intake compared with those with low salt intake.
A small, pilot study published of 50 people published in Cancer Prevention Research suggested that eating two and a half ounces of broccoli sprouts daily for two months may offer some protection against Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) – the common stomach infection that causes gastritis, ulcers and even stomach cancer.
A Johns Hopkins researcher and an international team of scientists caution that eating sprouts containing sulforaphane did not cure infection by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori).
They do not suggest that eating this or any amount of broccoli sprouts will protect anyone from stomach cancer or cure GI diseases.
However, the study does show that eating a daily dose of broccoli sprouts reduced by more than 40 percent the level of HpSA, a highly specific measure of the presence of components of H. pylori shed into the stool of infected people.
There was no HpSA level change in control subjects who ate alfalfa sprouts. The HpSA levels returned to pretreatment levels eight weeks after people stopped eating the broccoli sprouts, suggesting that although they reduce H. pylori colonisation, they do not eradicate it.
“The highlight of the study is that we identified a food that, if eaten regularly, might potentially have an effect on the cause of a lot of gastric problems and perhaps even ultimately help prevent stomach cancer,” says Jed W. Fahey, M.S., Sc.D., an author of the paper who is a nutritional biochemist in the Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Cancer Chemoprotection Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Can stomach cancer be cured?
“The outlook for stomach cancer depends on several factors, including a person’s age, general health, and how far the cancer has spread (the stage of the condition),” said the NHS.
Unfortunately, as stomach cancer isn’t often picked up until the later stages, the outlook isn’t as good as for some other cancers.
In the UK, more than 4,000 people die from stomach cancer each year.
As the NHS body explained, it’s still possible to alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life using chemotherapy and in some cases radiotherapy and surgery.
If operable, surgery can cure stomach cancer as long as all of the cancerous tissue can be removed.
Surgery to remove some or all of the stomach is known as a gastrectomy.
It will still be possible to eat normally after a gastrectomy, but a person probably has to adjust the size of their portions.