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According to an article recently published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, diets higher in vegetables and fruits and lower in foods common in Western diets (such as processed meats, soft drinks, and sugars) can significantly reduce the risk of developing stomach cancer.

Cancer of the stomach is called gastric cancer. Gastric adenocarcinoma is the most common type of stomach cancer. It arises from cells that line the surface of the stomach. An important risk factor for gastric cancer is infection with the bacterium Helicobacter Pylori (H. pylori).

Although the frequency of gastric cancer has been declining, rates of gastric cancer remain high in many parts of the world. Because of the number of people affected and the generally poor prognosis of gastric cancer, researchers continue to search for ways to prevent the disease.

Some studies have suggested that diets rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of certain cancers, including gastric cancer. Researchers are continuing to evaluate the association between diet and specific cancers. Such research could identify steps (such as dietary changes) that people can take in their daily lives to reduce their risk of developing cancer.

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Researchers from Canada and the United States recently conducted a clinical study to further explore the potential relationship between dietary habits and development of gastric cancer. This study included 1,169 patients who had been diagnosed with gastric cancer and 2,332 people who did not have gastric cancer.

  • A Western diet, characterized soft drinks, processed meats, refined grains, and sugars, was associated with a 86% increased risk of developing gastric cancer among women and a 44% increased risk among men.
  • Diets that included increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, and fish were associated with an approximately 60% decreased risk of developing gastric cancer among women and an approximately 54% decreased risk among men.

The researchers concluded that diets high in fruits and vegetables and lower in meats, sugars, and refined grains resulted in significantly reduced rates of gastric cancer. These results provide further evidence that dietary habits may significantly impact risk for developing various cancers.

Reference: Campbell P, Sloan M, Kreiger N. Dietary patterns and risk of incident gastric adenocarcinoma. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2008; 167:295-304.