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Stomach Cancer Causes

Doctors and scientists have not yet found any exact causes of stomach cancer; however, risk factors for the disease have been identified. While these risk factors are not "causes," they do increase a person's chances of developing stomach cancer. Examples of risk factors include smoking; being male; and eating a diet high in foods that are smoked, salted, or pickled.

What Causes Stomach Cancer?

No one knows the exact cause of stomach cancer. Doctors can seldom explain why one person will get stomach cancer and another person will not. However, research has shown that people with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop the disease. A risk factor is anything that increases a person's chances of developing a medical condition.
For the purposes of this article, the term "stomach cancer" refers to gastric adenocarcinoma (cancer of the glandular tissue in the stomach). This is the most common type of stomach cancer. Other types include lymphomas (cancers involving the lymphatic system) and sarcomas (cancers of the connective tissue, such as muscle, fat, or blood vessels).
(Click Lymphoma for information about a less common type of stomach cancer.)

Know the Risk Factors

Stomach cancer research scientists have identified certain risk factors for stomach cancer. While not stomach cancer "causes," these risk factors can increase a person's chances of developing the disease. Examples of these risk factors include:
  • Age (most people with stomach cancer are 72 years of age or older)
  • Being male
  • Being of Asian, Pacific Islander, Hispanic, or African-American descent
  • Eating a diet high in foods that are smoked, salted, or pickled
  • Having a Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection
  • Smoking
  • Having certain health problems, such as chronic gastritis, pernicious anemia, intestinal metaplasia, familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), or gastric polyps
  • Having a family history of stomach cancer.
(Click Stomach Cancer Risk Factors for more information.)
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