Some of the factors that may increase the risk for development of gastric cancer include: Age, gender, ethnicity, smoking, family history, diet and h. pylori. H. pylori is a common, treatable infection which leads to stomach inflammation and may increase the risk of developing gastric cancer. In the United States, gastric cancer is more common in Asians, Hispanic Americans and African Americans than in non-Hispanic whites.
Risks of Stomach Cancer
Some risks cannot be controlled, but others can be REDUCED by focusing on one’s health and choices. Review these lists and see what your risks and options might be:
- Tobacco use
- Diets rich in smoked, salted and pickled foods
- Diets low in fresh fruits and vegetables
- Environmental exposure to dusts and fumes
Risks for Personal Awareness
- Age 50 and over
- Male gender
- Having blood type A
- Long term inflammation of stomach
- Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacterial infection
- Megaloblastic (pernicious) anemia
- History of stomach polyps or stomach lymphoma
- Race (more common in Asians, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, and African Americans than in non-Hispanic Caucasian Americans)
- Family history of hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer, familial adenomatous polyposis or BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations
- Family history of stomach cancer (inherited cancers)
Preventing Stomach Cancer
- Early detection is the key to surviving stomach cancer.
- Lifestyle changes, such as smoking cessation and eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, can potentially reduce the risk of stomach cancer.
- Treatment of H. pylori infection (a common bacterial infection of the stomach) can decrease the risk of stomach cancer development.
- Knowing your family history and discussing it with your healthcare provider can help determine if you are at risk for inherited cancer syndromes.
Screening means testing seemingly healthy people, those who have no symptoms, for early stage cancer. The ability to screen for any type of cancer requires an accurate and reliable test to use, one that will identify cancers that are there. It must not give a positive result in people who do not have cancer.
In countries such as Japan, where stomach cancer is very common, mass screening of the population has helped in detecting cancers at an early, curable stage. Screening involves barium swallow x-rays and endoscopy screening. This may have reduced the number of people who die of this disease, but this has not been proven. It is still not clear whether the screening reduces the number of people who eventually develop advanced stomach cancer.
Presently there are no effective screening methods for stomach cancer or programs focused on prevention or early detection in the United States. The same holds true for Canada and the United Kingdom.
Studies in the United States have not found routine screening to be useful for those at average risk for stomach cancer, because the disease is not as common. However, people with certain stomach cancer risk factors may benefit from screening.
For patients and families with clinical features suggestive of Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer (HDGC), but without a germline CDH1 mutation, intensive endoscopic surveillance in an expert centre for first-degree relatives of patients meeting criteria for HDGC is advised. This is also the case for patients and families who carry a CDH1 variant of uncertain significance. Standardized endoscopic surveillance in experienced centres is recommended for those who have a CDH1 mutation but have opted not to undergo total gastrectomy at the present time. Learn more about HDGC in Families.
Advocate for Yourself
If you have symptoms that don’t go away, remember to advocate for yourself and be persistent. If you feel that something isn’t right and you are not getting the answers you need, don’t give up pursuing a diagnosis. Continue to seek answers and don’t stop until you get them. Go with your gut!
Know your family history. Review and update your family history regularly with your primary care provider to determine if genetic counseling is appropriate for you.