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Risk factors - Stomach Cancer

A risk factor is a condition, disease, lifestyle, or situation which increases the risk of developing a disease or condition. For example, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes is being obese, i.e. obese people have a higher risk of developing diabetes.

The risk factors linked to stomach cancer include:

  • Having certain medical conditions:
    • Esophagitis
    • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
    • Peptic stomach ulcer
    • Barrett′s esophagus
    • Chronic gastritis
    • Stomach polyps
  • Smoking - Regular long-term smokers have one-and-a-half times the risk of developing stomach cancer compared to lifetime non-smokers
  • Helicobacter Pylori Infection - about 50% of the world′s population is thought to carry this bacterium. It is harmless for most people. However, it can cause infection and cause stomach ulcers in some individuals, as well as recurring episodes of indigestion or atrophic gastritis (chronic inflammation of the stomach lining). Patients with severe atrophic gastritis have the highest risk of eventually developing gastric cancer (even in such cases, the risk is still relatively small)
  • Family history - having a close relative who has/had stomach cancer. In about 2% of stomach cancer cases, patients share a genetic mutation in the E-cadherin gene. People with blood type A also have a higher risk - we inherit our blood type from one of our parents.
  • Consuming foods which contain aflatoxin fungus. These may occur in crude vegetable oils, cocoa beans, treenuts, groundnuts, figs and other dried foods, and spices.
  • Diet - people who regularly eat salted fish, salty foods, smoked meats, and pickled vegetables have a higher risk of developing gastric cancer.
  • Age - the risk of developing stomach cancer increases significantly after the age of 55 years.
  • Sex - men have twice the risk of developing stomach cancer compared to women. Hormone estrogen protects women from the gastric inflammation that can lead to cancer.
  • Already having or having had another type of cancer - patients who have/had esophagus cancer or non-Hodgkin′s lymphoma are more likely to eventually develop stomach cancer. Men who have/had prostate, bladder or testicular cancer are at higher risk, as do females who have/had cervical, ovarian or breast cancer.
  • Some surgical procedures - particularly surgery to the stomach or a part of the body that affects the stomach, can increase the risk of gastric cancer. Examples include partial gastrectomy (when part of the stomach is removed), surgery to remove part of the vagus nerve, or surgery to treat a stomach ulcer.

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