During their lifetime, nearly 1 in 2 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer. On a positive note, cancer mortality rates are decreasing more than 2% per year in several different cancers including stomach cancer. (8)
The Canadian Cancer Statistics: A 2022 special report on cancer prevalence – was developed by the Canadian Cancer Statistics Advisory Committee in collaboration with CCS, Statistics Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada. The report details that at the beginning of 2018, an estimated 1.5 million people alive in Canada had been diagnosed with cancer in the previous 25 years; approximately 60% of whom were diagnosed 5 to 25 years ago. This highlights the high number of people living long-term with or beyond cancer.
WHAT IS STOMACH CANCER?
The most common type of stomach cancer is called adenocarcinoma, and this accounts for 90-95% of all stomach cancers. Stomach cancer occurs when normally healthy cells that line with stomach become cancerous and grow out of control, forming a tumor. This process generally happens slowly and usually develops over many years.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF STOMACH CANCER?
- Have a family history of gastric cancer
- Have an infection of the stomach by a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H pylori)
- Had a polyp (abnormal growth) larger than 2 centimeters in your stomach
- Have inflammation and swelling of the stomach for a long time (chronic atrophic gastritis)
- Have pernicious anemia (low number of red blood cells from intestines not properly absorbing vitamin B12)
Dietary/lifestyle risk factors include
- Consume a lot of cured, smoked meats
- Eat a lot of salty or processed foods
- Eat meat frequently
- Having a diet low in fruits and vegetables
- Drink a lot of alcohol (at least three drinks per day) (1)
- Don’t get enough exercise
- Don’t store or cook food properly
Certain ethnicities are at risk for the development of gastric adenocarcinoma. Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Native Americans, and people of Pacific Island descent are at the greatest risk. In contrast, Filipinos and Caucasians are at the lowest risk.
STAGES OF STOMACH CANCER
The stage of stomach cancer indicates how far the cancer has spread in the body.
A lower number represents an earlier stage of cancer. While tumor growth and spread will vary, in general, each stage looks like:
- Stage 0 – There are abnormal or cancerous cells in only the surface of the stomach lining, but the cancer hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
- Stage 1 – The tumor has extended into deeper layers of the stomach. The cancer may or may not have spread to one or two of the lymph nodes surrounding the stomach, but it hasn’t spread to other parts of the body.
- Stage 2 – The tumor has reached deeper layers of the stomach, and the cancer has usually spread to the lymph nodes. It hasn’t spread to other parts of the body.
- Stage 3 – The tumor has grown deeper into the layers of the stomach and possibly into nearby organs. The cancer has likely spread to the lymph nodes, but hasn’t reached distant parts of the body.
- Stage 4 – The cancer may have reached deeper stomach layers or nearby lymph nodes, but this isn’t a requirement. At this stage, the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body such as the lungs, brain, or liver.
As long as the cancer hasn’t spread to distant parts of the body, it will be between stage 0 and 3. If it has spread to other areas, the diagnosis will be stage 4 stomach cancer.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PREVENT OR MANAGE STOMACH CANCER
The World Cancer Research Foundation in there 1997 report concluded that by making a few simple changes to your diet you could reduce the risk of cancer by 30-40%.
- Consume a Mediterranean Diet
People following a Mediterranean diet over a 4 year period compared to those that followed the American Heart Association diet showed a 61% reduction in cancer risk and half the risk of death. (2)
Click here for more information on the Mediterranean diet.
- Eat lots of Fruit and Vegetables
This is specifically so for cancers involving the digestive tract (mouth, stomach, pharynx, colon and rectum). Eating the rainbow ensures that you are getting all the different antioxidants and phytonutrients that can help boost the immune system and fight off cancer. A study has shown that consuming a carrot a day can cut your cancer risk by a third. (3)
- Eat Garlic
Garlic contains about 200 compounds many of which protect against cancer. A National Cancer Institute study found that provinces that used garlic liberally had the lowest rate of stomach cancers. (4) People who consume raw or cooked garlic regularly reduced their risk of stomach cancer by 50% and two thirds the risk of colorectal cancer compared to people who eat little or none. (5)
- Limit Red Meat and Eliminate Processed Meats
Red meat includes beef, bacon, pork, lamb, goat and processed meats which are meats that are preserved such as smoked, salted and cured or with added chemical preservatives in it. These meats have been linked to stomach cancer. Carcinogens are often formed by cooking meats at high temperatures or on the BBQ when it becomes blackened. Processed meats contain nitrates that damage DNA increasing the risk of cancer to develop. One study revealed that certain cancers such as stomach cancer was 45% less likely to occur in vegetarians. (6)
Ideally you should limit red meat consumption to 5 ½ ounces of red meat (equivalent to the size of the palm of your hand) twice a week.
- Eat Organic
Pesticides in contaminated foods can damage DNA and predispose a person to cancer. We understand organic food can make your grocery bill more expensive but the good news is that all foods do not need to be organic (although ideally it does if you have been diagnosed with cancer). The “dirty dozen” are the foods that have been identified as the most polluted and highly sprayed so it is best to buy organic for the following: peaches, apples, nectarines, strawberries, cherries and grapes, sweet bell peppers, celery, kale, lettuce, potatoes and carrots.
- Balance Blood Sugars
It is very important to balance blood sugar levels because when blood sugars drop, it raises the insulin-like growth factor. (IGF-1) These hormone have the ability to promote the growth of cancer cells. Eating foods high on the glycemic index has been linked to stomach cancers. (7)
So you need to make sure your meals are balanced with a ¼ plate containing a lean protein (such as chicken, fish or tofu), a ¼ plate of starchy vegetables or grains (such as quinoa, brown rice or sweet potato) and a ½ plate of non starchy vegetables (such as salad, asparagus, cauliflower or broccoli). It’s best to avoid sugars and refined grains as much as possible as cancer feeds on these.
- Maintaining Positive Emotions and Mindset
The more I research the more I see the power of emotions and mindset and the dramatic impact it has on our body both good and bad. Negative mindset weakens the immune system, increases the risk of infection and onset of disease.
A 2003 study published in the Journal of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences linked “negative” brain activity or thought patterns with a weakened immune system. One study followed 100,000 women over 8 years and found that optimists in the group were 23% less likely to die of cancer than those women who tended to have a general distrust in people.
Click here for strategies on how to improve your positive mindset.
- Manage Stress
Research has shown that cancer is frequently diagnosed in people who have major loss or traumatic events within the previous 2 years. Stress tends to impact cancer development quicker than those exposed to asbestos which can take up to 40 years to manifest. Stress rapidly weakens the immune system and subsequently our ability to fight and manage cancer cells, which we all have and for the most part our immune system is good at fighting off. But with chronic or intense stress this makes it harder for our immune system to do.
Stress dramatically suppresses the immune system in our gut which is the major gateway for carcinogens entering our body. Also 75% of our immune system is in our gut making it even more important to support healthy gut flora and functioning.
Click here to read an article with more detailed information on this topic.
Cancer is scary and can rear it’s ugly head at any time. Taking a proactive approach is best but that usually occurs only when people have a family history of it or have seen a close one be diagnosed with cancer. There are so many ways through nutrition and lifestyle to help mitigate the risk of developing cancer and managing it. But you need to find the right approach for you and your cancer journey.
- De Lorgeril, et al “mediertanean dietary pattern in a randomised trial; Prolonged survival and possible reduced cancer rate” Archives of Internal medicine, 1998 June 8;158(11):1181-7
- Buijsse, et al., Plasma Carotene and alpha -tocopherol in relation to 10y all-cause and cause specific mortality in European elderly; The Survey in Europe on Nutrition and Elderly, A Concerted Action, American Journal of Clinical nutrition , 2005 Oct,;82 (4):879-86
- C. You, et al., “allium vegetables and reduced risk of stomach cancer” Journal of the National cancer Institute, 1989 Jan. 18;81 (2): 162-4
- T. Fleischauer, et al., Garlic consumption and cancer prevention: Meta analysis of colorectal and stomach cancers”, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2000 Oct.;72 (4):1047-52
- Patrick Holford, “Say No To Cancer: The Drug Free guide to preventing and helping fight Cancer” 2010, Piartkus
- Bertuccio, et al., “Dietary Glycemic Load and Gastric Cancer Risk in Italy” British Journal of Cancer, 2009 Feb. 10;100 (3):558-61
- Government of Canada Cancer statistics