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What is stomach cancer?

Stomach cancer, also called gastric cancer, is cancer that forms in the tissues that line the stomach. The stomach is a hollow organ in the upper abdomen, just under the ribs. Its primary function is to receive food from the esophagus, digest it and turn it into liquid/semi-liquid and send it through the lower digestive tract.

Each year, 22,000 Americans are diagnosed with gastric cancer (stomach cancer). This disease, which begins in the cells lining the innermost, or mucosal layer of the stomach and spreads outward, is relatively rare in the US but the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the world. Gastric cancer is prevalent in many Asian nations, parts of South America, and the former Soviet Union. These differences are in part due to higher consumption of preserved and salted foods in those countries, and poorly refrigerated food.

There are two types of gastric cancer: gastric cardia cancer, which occurs in the top portion of the stomach near the junction of the esophagus, and non-cardia gastric cancer, which may be found in all other areas of the stomach. These two types of cancer have different risk factors and patterns of incidence.

While the overall incidence of gastric cancer is decreasing in the US, this reduction in gastric cancer cases applies primarily to non-cardia gastric cancer. This reduction in non-cardia gastric cancer is believed to be due to better diet, better food refrigeration, and use of antibiotics to treat helicobacter pylori bacteria (H. pylori bacteria) infection, a major risk factor for non-cardia gastric cancer. Conversely, cardia gastric cancer, rare at one time, is now increasing in Western nations for reasons for that are still unclear, and it accounts for about 50% of all stomach cancer in men in the US.

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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.