What is gastric cancer?

Updated: May 21, 2019
  • Author: Elwyn C Cabebe, MD; Chief Editor: N Joseph Espat, MD, MS, FACS  more...
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Answer

Gastric cancer was once the second most common cancer in the world. In most developed countries, however, rates of stomach cancer have declined dramatically over the past half century. In the United States, stomach malignancy is currently the 15th most common cancer. [2]

Decreases in gastric cancer have been attributed in part to widespread use of refrigeration, which has had several beneficial effects: increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables; decreased intake of salt, which had been used as a food preservative; and decreased contamination of food by carcinogenic compounds arising from the decay of unrefrigerated meat products. Salt and salted foods may damage the gastric mucosa, leading to inflammation and an associated increase in DNA synthesis and cell proliferation. Other factors likely contributing to the decline in stomach cancer rates include lower rates of chronic Helicobacter pylori infection, thanks to improved sanitation and use of antibiotics, and increased screening in some countries. [5]

Nevertheless, gastric cancer remains difficult to cure in Western countries, primarily because most patients present with advanced disease. Even patients who present in the most favorable condition and who undergo curative surgical resection often die of recurrent disease. However, two studies have demonstrated improved survival with adjuvant therapy: a US study using postoperative chemoradiation [6] and a European study using preoperative and postoperative chemotherapy. [7]

For patient education resources, see the Digestive Disorders Center as well as the patient education article Stomach Cancer.


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