The incidences of stomach cancer or gastric cancer are low in India. However, there are certain regions of the country that witness a prominent prevalence of the disease. This warrants for more widespread discussion of the causes of stomach cancer and how we can work together to fight against cancer.
Stomach cancer is the fifth most common cancer among Indian males and the seventh most common cancer among females in the country. Why so many people are affected by the fatal disease in our country? The answer lies in certain behaviors, lifestyle patterns, and living conditions that increase the risk of getting the disease. Let’s find out what risk factors cause stomach lining cells to become cancerous.
1. Gender and Age
Men are more prone to stomach cancer than females.
As you grow older, the chances of getting diagnosed with stomach cancer rise. Most gastric cancer patients are over the age of 50.
It is witnessed that certain populations of the world are more prone to the disease. Regions such as Japan, Korea, certain parts of Eastern Europe, and Southern and Central America are seeing a rise in gastric cancer cases. Experts attribute the rising numbers to the food preservation techniques of drying, smoking, salting, or pickling used by these inhabitants. So, it is essential to limit the usage of such preservation techniques in your households.
3. Family History and Genetics
If you have a close family member (first-degree relatives including parents, siblings, and children) who have suffered from stomach cancer, you are more likely to develop the disease.
Certain genetic conditions such as Lynch syndrome, Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP), Li-Fraumeni syndrome, etc. have higher chances of stomach cancer.
Inherited mutations of the GSTM1-null phenotype or CDH1 gene, IL-17, and IL-10, and polymorphisms of the interleukin genes also increase your risk. Even inherited mutations of BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that often causes breast cancer can also lead to stomach cancer.
4. Medical History
One of the most common reasons for the cancers in the distal part of the stomach is Helicobacter Pylori (H pylori). Doctors have found out that long-term infection can lead to inflammation and affect the lining of the stomach.
Patients who have pernicious anemia should also regularly look for symptoms of stomach cancer. Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) is connected to lymphoma and linked to a small number of gastric cancer cases.
5. Dietary Habits
Although the link between obesity and gastric cancer is not pronounced, experts suggest that being overweight or obese can lead to cancers of the upper part of the stomach. Hence, it is essential to adopt a simple, sustainable diet and focus on maintaining a healthy weight.
Diets with excessive usage of salt, pickled foods, and preserved meats are known to increase the risk factor. Research suggests that nitrates and nitrites found in cured meats can lead to Helicobacter Pylori and cause stomach cancer in the future. Avoid prolonged intake of red meat, saturated fat, and preserved food that can cause inflammation.
6. Consumption of Tobacco and Alcohol
Consumption of tobacco especially in the form of smoking can cause gastric cancer. Whether it is cigarettes, cigars, hookah, or other types such as opium, it is best to avoid tobacco for multiple health benefits. Additionally, excessive consumption of alcohol can affect the stomach lining and cause it to erode. It can lead to stomach cancer as well.
7. Occupational Hazards
Certain jobs cause exposure to chemicals, dust, high-temperature particulates, metals, etc. They increase the risk of the disease. For example, the presence of asbestos can lead to stomach cancer in the future.
8. Socio-Economic Status
Although it may not be directly related to the cause of gastric cancer, a lower socio-economic status prevents patients from getting access to immediate medical treatment. Prolonged infection of H. pylori or stomach inflammation can lead to stomach cancer. People with low incomes also have less access to fresh produce. They often rely on affordable, processed food which leads to more chances of cancer.
On the other hand, proximal stomach & gastroesophageal junction tumors are more visible in affluent classes of the society. The reasons behind it are a sedentary lifestyle and morbid obesity. It shows that greater access to rich, fatty foods and less physical activity negatively impacts your health.
What can we do to reduce our Risks of Stomach Cancer?
We must understand that certain risk factors are modifiable such as the habit of smoking tobacco or consuming alcohol. Other factors such as age and gender cannot be controlled. It is also important to recognize that having a few risk factors doesn’t mean you will get stomach cancer soon.
So, what lies in our hands? We need to take our health in our hands. Practice a healthy lifestyle, improve your dietary patterns, and lead an active life. The healthier you are, the lesser are your chances of getting stomach cancer.
For gastric cancer treatment, seek immediate medical expertise from a gastrointestinal surgeon. Get in touch with South Gujarat's first national board-certified HPB and GI cancer expert, Dr. Jay Chokshi. Call on 8010918000 and book a teleconsultation today.