Drinking, Weight Gain & Processed Meats Could Raise Stomach Cancer Risk

By Valerie Tejeda 04/28/16

According to researchers, one in seven cases of stomach cancer in the U.S. could be prevented by adjusting your diet.

Drinking, Weight Gain & Processed Meats Could Raise Stomach Cancer Risk
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A new report released last week by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund, found that drinking alcohol, eating processed meats, and having excess body weight all raise the risk of developing stomach cancer. 

"This is the first report to find strong evidence of these links," said Alice Bender, head of nutrition programs at AICR. "There are things we can do to lower our risk for cancer. There are choices we make every day that can make a difference."

Specifically, one in seven cases of stomach cancer in the United States could be prevented by making the proper diet and lifestyle changes, say the researchers. The report, which analyzed 89 studies including 77,000 adults with stomach cancer, found that the more processed meat a person eats, the more weight they gain, and the more booze they drink—the higher the risk.

The report classified an increased stomach cancer risk with having three or more alcoholic drinks per day. The risk increases by 18% for every 1.8 ounces of processed meat (e.g. hot dogs, bacon, deli meats) consumed per day. And for every five-unit increase in body mass index gained, the risk increases by 23%.

It’s important to note, however, that the report showed an association, not a causal relationship, between these factors and stomach cancer risk. "You usually can't take the result of a single study as proof. You like to see patterns," said study co-author Dr. Anne McTiernan, an epidemiologist with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. "By combining all this evidence, you're able to really see what these associations look like."

Every year, 1 million stomach cancer cases are recorded globally, according to the report. Men are twice as likely as women to develop it, and among those who do, many have a survival rate of only five years because symptoms don’t usually appear till the later stages. 

More research is still needed to determine the reason why increased stomach cancer risk is linked to alcohol, processed meats, and weight gain. But in the meantime, limiting consumption of alcohol (one a day for women, two for men) and processed meats, and working to stay at a healthy weight, can’t hurt.

"If you follow current cancer prevention guidelines, that would definitely be consistent with this report," said Marji McCullough, strategic director of nutritional epidemiology for the American Cancer Society. "People should lower their intake of processed meat and consider it something they eat more on occasion, rather than a regular part of their diet.”

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Entertainment journalist and author Valerie Tejeda spends her days reporting on books, television, and all things pertaining to pop culture, and spends her nights writing novels for teens. Her stories have appeared on a variety of different publications, including but not limited to: VanityFair, MTV, The Huffington Post, TeenVogue, She Knows, Latina, The Fix, Salon.com, Cosmopolitan, and more. You can find Valerie on Linkedin and Twitter.