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According to results recently published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, large intake of processed meats appears to be associated with an increased risk of developing gastric cancer.

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

Cancers that develop in different parts of the stomach may be linked with different causal factors. Cancer of the gastric cardia refers to cancer that develops in the upper part of the stomach near the esophagus. Cancer in other parts of the stomach is noncardia gastric cancer. Over the last few decades, the frequency of gastric cardia cancer has increased, while the frequency of noncardia gastric cancer has decreased.

Meat intake has been thought to play a role in the development of gastric and esophageal cancers, but more evidence is needed to confirm this association. Researchers from Sweden recently analyzed data from clinical studies including approximately 4,700 individuals to further evaluate the potential association between processed meat consumption and the risk of developing gastric cancer. Approximately half of the individuals had been diagnosed with gastric cancer and the other half had not.

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  • Individuals who consumed 30 grams of processed meats per day had an approximate 15–38% increased risk of developing gastric cancer.
  • Individuals who consumed the largest amounts of bacon had a 37% increased risk in developing gastric cancer compared to those who ate the least amount of bacon.

The researchers concluded that although results from other studies have also indicated an increased risk of gastric cancer with the consumption of large amounts of processed meat, further evidence is needed to reach a conclusion about the association between processed meat consumption and gastric cancer.

Reference: Larsson S, Orsini N, Wolk A. Processed Meat Consumption and Stomach Cancer Risk: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2006; 98: 1078-1087.