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Causes of stomach cancer (gastric cancer)

Helicobacter pylori
Helicobacter pylori

People who move from countries where stomach cancer is common to countries where it is rare become less likely to develop the disease. This means that there are risk factors that are environmental. These factors include:

 

  • Diet - there are a number of foods that have an influence on the development of stomach cancer. A high intake of complex carbohydrates, nitrates or salt and a low intake of animal fat, protein and salads, fruit and vegetables all can increase the risk of the disease.

  • Smoking - nearly one in five cancers of the stomach are caused by smoking. The risk of developing stomach cancer increases nearly 3 fold in smokers.
  • Alcohol - There is not much evidence that alcohol consumption increases the risk.
  • Gastric surgery - After gastric surgery the risk of stomach cancer is greatest 15 to 20 years later
  • Epstein-Barr virus - The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) may be associated with the development of some types of stomach cancer.
  • Helicobacter pylori - This bacteria is now classified a definite cause of gastric cancer increasing the risk by a factor of 6. 

 

There are other factors that seem to increase the risk of stomach cancer, unrelated to the environment.

  • Blood group - Patients with a Blood Group A have a higher risk of developing gastric cancer

 

  • Genetic factors -  in some families there seems to be an inherited increased risk of the disease., the underlying genetic basis for the predisposition is not understood, while in others, certain risk factors have been identified.

 

  • Gastric ulcers - Gastric ulcers are associated with stomach cancer, but they may be caused by similar factors, so as such may not be a direct cause.

 

  • Pernicious anemia - Pernicious anemia is caused by a problem some people have in absorbing vitamin B12, is cause by the body 'self-damaging' the lining of the stomach through immune mechanisms. There is a 3 times increased risk of stomach cancer in this disease.

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