With nearly 19, 000 new people affected each year, stomach cancer is fifth in men and seventh in cancer among women in Germany. Although the frequency and mortality rate have declined overall in recent decades. But the prognosis could still be improved if the cancer was detected earlier. Malignant tumors of the stomach occur almost exclusively as gastric cancer originating from the glandular tissue or mucous membrane. Above all, people over 70 and more men than women are affected.
Causes of stomach cancer: how does stomach cancer develop?
There are now several known factors that have been shown to increase the risk of stomach cancer or suspected of being related:
- Nutritional habits play a particularly important role, but the following are detrimental: frequent consumption of spicy and strongly salted and strongly fried, smoked or cured foods: The nitrates contained in the stomach are converted into nitrites by bacteria, which produce carcinogenic nitrosamines. Excessive consumption of nicotine (tobacco smoke contains nitrite) and alcoholic beverages (which promote prolonged gastric inflammation and ulcers and thus malignant degeneration); especially if at the same time too little vitamin C is supplied.
- A colonization of the stomach with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (he converts nitrates into nitrites), especially if the diet is heavily meaty: meat contains iron that is vital for the germ. A recent American study shows that colonization of the stomach with Helicobacter pylori increases the amount of a specific inflammatory protein (interleukin-1-beta), which in turn increases the risk that normal gastric cells will convert into cancer cells. How much interleukin is formed is probably genetic - which would explain why the germs do not lead to cancer in all people.
- In addition, there are some rare, special gastric diseases that also increase the risk: for example, certain gastric polyps, the Ménétrier syndrome (giant fold stomach) or the autoimmune gastritis - a form of gastric inflammation in which too little gastric acid is formed, which in turn promotes germ colonization.
Genetic factors probably also play a role - in certain regions and close relatives, stomach cancer is more prevalent (though it is not so easy to differentiate the hereditary influence from dietary habits).