Alcohol and Processed Meat Link to Stomach Cancer

Peter Russell

April 22, 2016

An analysis from the World Cancer Research Fund has found "strong evidence" that alcohol and processed meats can cause stomach cancer.

Stomach cancer is the 16th most common cancer in the UK with around 7,100 cases in 2013. It is more common in men than women.

Only around a fifth of people diagnosed with stomach cancer survive the disease for 5 or more years.

Established risk factors for stomach cancer include eating too much salt and smoking. Although alcohol is sometimes mentioned as a risk factor, experts have maintained that the evidence is unclear.

Evidence Review

The latest analysis was conducted by a research team at Imperial College London and then reviewed by a panel of leading international scientists. They looked at evidence from 89 studies worldwide which included nearly 77,000 cases of stomach cancer.

Among the main findings considered as 'strong' evidence are that:

· Having approximately 3 or more alcoholic drinks each day increases the risk of stomach cancer.

· Eating foods preserved by salting increases the risk of stomach cancer. Research mainly relates to high-salt foods and salt-preserved foods, including pickled vegetables and salted or dried fish, as traditionally prepared in east Asia.

· Being overweight or obese increases the risk of stomach cardia cancer which is cancer affecting the upper portion of the stomach that adjoins the gullet.

· Eating processed meat increases the risk of stomach non-cardia cancer.

The findings on alcohol and being overweight or obese are new since the last assessment was made in 2007.

The findings on processed meat have upgraded to 'strong', and is now specifically linked to stomach non-cardia cancer.

'Worrying'

Commenting on the report in a statement, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, says: "We were aware that alcohol causes 7 types of cancer, and worryingly, this report now demonstrates a link with an eighth - stomach cancer.

"The link between alcohol and cancer is one of the reasons the chief medical officers (CMOs) in the UK revised their alcohol consumption guideline at the beginning of the year.

"The CMOs recommend that both men and women drink no more than 14 units per week, spread across the week, and that there is no level of drinking which can be considered 'safe'. This report further demonstrates the need for these new guidelines, and for the public to be informed of the risks of alcohol consumption.

"The public have the right to know about the link between alcohol and cancer, including the link with stomach cancer. The best way to ensure the public has the information they need to make an informed choice about how much they drink is for the government to mandate health warning levels on all alcoholic products as well as invest in significant mass media campaigns warning of the risks of drinking above the recommended guidelines."

SOURCES:

'Diet, nutrition, physical activity and stomach cancer', World Cancer Research Fund.

Press release, World Cancer Research Fund.

Alcohol Health Alliance.

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