Several lifestyle factors linked to stomach cancer for first time

Today we publish a new report, which found for the first time that eating processed meat, drinking alcohol and being overweight all increase the risk of developing stomach cancers

21 April 2016

World Cancer Research Fund International’s analysis of global research shows strong new evidence that eating 50 grams per day of processed meat – around 2 rashers of bacon - increases the risk of non-cardia stomach cancer by 18 per cent.

The evidence also shows that drinking 45 grams of alcohol per day - the equivalent of about three drinks - significantly increases the risk of stomach cancers. The risk is most significant in men, as well as smokers and ex-smokers.

Being overweight or obese is found to increase the risk of cardia stomach cancer. This brings the number of cancers linked to being overweight to eleven. The research showed a 23 per cent increased risk of stomach cancer per 5 body mass index units.

The review also confirmed that high intakes of foods preserved by salting - in particular Asian style salted vegetables or dried salted fish - are a cause of stomach cancer. The evidence linking added salt as a cause of stomach cancer has become less strong, this is partly because it is so difficult to measure salt consumption.

Stomach cancers are classified into two main types according to where in the stomach they occur. Cardia stomach cancer is located at the top of the stomach and is more common in high-income countries. Non-cardia stomach cancer affects the rest of the stomach and is common in Asia and associated with H.pylori infection.

These findings come at a time when stomach cancer is the third biggest cancer killer in the world with over 900,000 new cases a year, making prevention of this disease particularly important.

Our review includes 89 studies from around the world and 77,000 cases of stomach cancer. This evidence builds upon the findings from our last review of worldwide research on stomach cancer in the 2007 Second Expert Report.

Based on these findings, we recommend maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding processed meat and alcohol. Even though it is difficult to measure salt consumption, we can’t rule out that eating too much salt increases the risk of stomach cancer; therefore we also recommend consuming no more than 6g of salt per day.

The report contains full details on the findings and conclusions.