What are the risk factors for stomach cancer?

Age, gender, ethnicity, family history, diet, smoking, and stomach disease may affect your risk of gastric cancer. Individuals who have the highest risk are:

  • Adults older than 50

  • Men, who have twice the risk of women

  • Asians and Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, and African Americans, who all have higher risk than Caucasians

  • Individuals infected with H. pylori bacteria, which while a common infection, may lead to chronic atrophic gastritis, a precancerous condition in which stomach cells are damaged by chronic inflammation. Autoimmune disease may also cause chronic atrophic gastritis

  • Those with diets heavy in smoked foods and low in fruits and vegetables

  • Smokers

  • Individuals who have had surgery for peptic ulcers.

  • Individuals who have a family history of stomach cancer, stomach polyps, hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), or familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), a condition in which many noncancerous polyps form which later become pre-cancerous and cancerous.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

Here are some factors that increase risk of contracting stomach cancer:

Eating a high-salt diet such as canned, processed, frozen and preserved meats

Eating 3 or more servings of red meat a week

Eating at restaurants or fast-food places

Having type A, A+ or A- blood

Being a smoker

Not taking treatment for Helicobacter pylori stomach ulcers

Here are some factors that decrease risk of stomach cancer:

Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables

Keeping salt intake under 6,000 mg a day (or sodium under 2,300 mg a day)
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Robynne K. Chutkan, MD

Stomach cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide and a prime example of a cancer with many causes. Infection with the bacteria helicobacter pylori (H pylori) is the main risk factor for developing stomach cancer. The interesting thing about H pylori is that although more than half the world's population is infected with it, only a small percentage will develop symptoms, which include stomach ulcers, abdominal pain and stomach cancer.

Nitrates and nitrites in smoked and preserved meats can form compounds called nitrosamines. Animal studies show that consuming large amounts of these substances over time can lead to cancer. In addition to avoiding large amounts of processed meats, maximizing your intake of fruits and vegetables that contain cancer-preventing phytonutrients is also a critical part of decreasing your risk for stomach cancer. Lifestyle factors such as smoking and heavy alcohol consumption are risk factors for most forms of cancer and stomach cancer is no exception.

Most cases of stomach cancer are sporadic, meaning that they don't occur as a result of inherited genes. However, in a small percentage, stomach cancer is associated with a genetic abnormality on chromosome 16; for family members unlucky enough to inherit that particular gene (the CDH1 gene), the lifetime risk for developing stomach cancer is 70%. For people with a strong family history of stomach cancer who test positive for the gene, preventative removal of the stomach is a drastic but reasonable option.

Gastroenterologist Dr. Robynne Chutkan discusses the factors that could increase your risk of getting stomach cancer. Watch Dr. Chutkan's video for information on digestive disorders and gastrointestinal issues.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.