Stomach cancer now linked to processed meats, alcohol and obesity

April 22, 2016 Providence Health Team

Alcohol, processed meat and obesity have long been linked to various cancers. But now, for the first time, all have been implicated in stomach cancer. Sobering news for Americans, who are heavier than ever and love their meat and beer.

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) made the stomach cancer connection after reviewing research worldwide.

More than 26,000 Americans are diagnosed with stomach cancer each year and more than 10,000 die from it, according to the American Cancer Society.

"This report is a real wake-up call,” said Alice Bender, MS, RDN, and head of Nutrition Programs at the AICR. “Obesity is now linked to 11 types of cancer and we want Americans to know there are steps everyone can take for cancer prevention and better health, like eating more vegetables, beans, fruits and other plant foods along with squeezing in a few more steps every day."

Key study findings

The ACIR, which focuses its research on the connection between diet and cancer, came up with its findings after analyzing 89 studies covering 17.5 million adults and 77,000 cases of stomach cancer. The institute found that nearly 4,000 stomach cancer cases in the U.S. could be prevented if people:

  • Consumed no more than three alcoholic drinks a day
  • Did not eat processed meat such as bacon and hot dogs
  • Maintained a healthy weight

Many Americans are far from meeting those guidelines. While beef consumption has inched down a bit, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, obesity is considered an epidemic in the U.S. More than one-third, or 78.6 million Americans, are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Alcohol consumption also is a concern. One in six adults binge drinks about four times a month, consuming eight drinks at a sitting, the CDC says.

Signs or symptom of stomach cancer

The American Cancer Society says some common signs and symptoms of stomach cancer include:

  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss without dieting
  • Abdominal or belly pain
  • Discomfort in the abdomen, usually above the navel
  • A sense of fullness in the upper abdomen after eating a small meal
  • Heartburn or indigestion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting, with or without blood
  • Swelling or fluid buildup in the abdomen
  • Low red blood-cell count, or anemia

A stomach virus or an ulcer also can cause these symptoms. If they persist, see your health care provider.

Tips to limit your cancer risks

If you want to cut your risks of cancer, the American Cancer Society offers these guidelines:

  • Drink no more than one drink per day if you’re a woman, and no more than two if you’re a man.
  • Limit how much processed meat and red meat you eat. This includes many of our favorites: bacon, sausage, ham, hot dogs, pepperoni, salami, pastrami, bologna, corned beef and deli/luncheon meats. The AICR says that eating 1.8 ounces of processed meat – the equivalent of a hot dog -- every day raises the risk of lower-stomach cancer by 18 percent.
  • Be physically active and reduce the amount of time you spend sitting. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk instead of driving when possible. Join a sports team.

If you have concerns about your lifestyle or diet, talk with your health care provider. You can find a Providence provider here.

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