Can You Prevent Stomach Cancer?

Though stomach cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the world, the number of cases has dropped over the past several decades. There's no guarantee you can prevent it, but there's plenty you can do to lower your chances of having it. Here's how to give yourself every possible advantage.

Check on ulcers. Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a common bacteria. It doesn’t always make people sick, but it can infect your stomach lining and cause ulcers. It's also a carcinogen, which means it can cause cancer. If you've got stomach ulcers, your doctor may need to check to see if you have an H. pylori infection and treat it.

Pile on the produce. Make sure each meal includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. That can lower your chance of getting stomach cancer. Oranges, lemons, and grapefruit are great choices. With grapefruit, though, you may want to ask your doctor if it will affect any meds you take (including statins, which many people take to lower their LDL or “bad” cholesterol level). The American Cancer Society recommends choosing fish, poultry, or beans, instead of processed meats or red meat, and whole-grain breads, pasta, and cereal, instead of refined grains (for instance, whole-wheat flour instead of white flour).

Cut down on smoked foods. In the days before refrigerators, people smoked, pickled, and salted food to preserve it. Large amounts of salt and preservatives can hurt the lining of your stomach and make you more likely to get stomach cancer. So limit smoked and pickled foods, including salted meats and fish.

Kick the habit. Smoking puts you at risk for many kinds of cancers, including stomach cancer. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor. And avoid other people’s “secondhand smoke,” too.

Make a move. Exercise is an everyday habit that pays off from head to toe. Being fit and active can lower your risk for many different types of cancers and other health problems.

Check on your weight. People who are overweight may be more likely to get stomach cancer. If you’re not sure whether your weight is in a healthy range, ask your doctor.

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Use aspirin wisely. You might take aspirin, ibuprofen, and other over-the-counter medication like it to ease pain, fever, or swelling. It may also cut your odds of having stomach and colon cancers. But you shouldn't take those medications to prevent stomach cancer, as they can also cause internal bleeding. Your doctor can explain what's best for you.

Consider genetic testing. Does stomach cancer run in your family? A genetic test can tell you if you carry certain genes that make you more sensitive to stomach cancer, including the CDH1 gene and Lynch syndrome.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on February 19, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

American Cancer Society: "Can Stomach Cancer Be Prevented?"

World Cancer Research Fund International: "Salt: Shaking up the link with stomach cancer."

Mayo Clinic: "Stomach cancer."

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Definition & Facts of Peptic Ulcers (Stomach Ulcers)."

National Cancer Institute: "Helicobacter pylori and Cancer."

Cleveland Clinic: "Stomach Cancer."

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