Can Stomach Cancer Be Prevented?

There is no sure way to prevent stomach cancer (also known as gastric cancer), but there are things you can do that could lower your risk.

Diet, nutrition, body weight, physical activity, and alcohol use

Being overweight or obese increases the risk of some types of stomach cancer, so getting to and staying at a healthy weight might lower your risk.

Getting regular physical activity might also help lower your risk of stomach cancer.

Aside from possible effects on stomach cancer risk, staying at a healthy weight and being active may also lower your risk of several other cancers and health problems.

A diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables probably also lowers stomach cancer risk. Citrus fruits (such as oranges, lemons, and grapefruit) may be especially helpful,  but be aware that grapefruit and grapefruit juice can change the blood levels of certain drugs you take. Talk to your health care team about this before adding grapefruit to your diet.

The American Cancer Society recommends that people follow a healthy eating pattern, which includes a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables and whole grains, and avoids or limits red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, and highly processed foods.

Alcohol use probably increases the risk of stomach cancer, so avoiding or limiting alcohol might lower your risk.

For more on diet, body weight, physical activity, and alcohol use, see the American Cancer Society Guideline for Diet and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention.

Studies that have looked at other dietary factors, such as taking dietary supplements or drinking tea (particularly green tea) have not led to firm conclusions when it comes to lowering stomach cancer risk. Further research is needed in these areas.

Not smoking

Smoking can increase the risk of cancers of the upper stomach (the portion closest to the esophagus). Tobacco use increases the risk for many other types of cancer as well. If you don’t use tobacco, don’t start. If you already do and want help quitting, call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345.

Treating H pylori infection

It's not yet clear if people whose stomach linings are chronically infected with the H pylori bacteria but who do not have any symptoms should be treated with antibiotics. This is a topic of current research. Some studies have suggested that giving antibiotics to people with H pylori infection might lower the number of pre-cancerous lesions in the stomach and reduce the risk of developing stomach cancer. But not all studies have found this.

While it’s not yet clear if all people with H pylori infection should be treated, some research has shown that it might be helpful to treat people with H pylori who are also at higher risk for stomach cancer for other reasons, such as having a close relative with stomach cancer.

More research is needed to be sure that treating other groups of people with H pylori infection can lower stomach cancer risk.

If your doctor thinks you might have H pylori infection, there are several ways to test for this, including a breath test, a blood test, a stool test, and an endoscopy procedure, in which a biopsy is done. (See Tests for Stomach Cancer.)

Aspirin use

Using aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen seems to lower the risk of stomach cancer. These medicines can also lower the risk of developing colon polyps and colon cancer. But they can also cause serious (and even life-threatening) internal bleeding and other potential health risks in some people.

Most doctors consider any reduced cancer risk an added benefit for people who take these drugs for other reasons, such as to treat arthritis. But doctors do not routinely recommend taking NSAIDs specifically to prevent stomach cancer. Studies have not yet determined for which people the benefits of lowering cancer risk would outweigh the risks of bleeding complications.

For people at greatly increased risk

Hereditary diffuse gastric cancer (HDGC) is a rare inherited condition in which people have a greatly increased risk of stomach cancer, which often develops at a fairly early age. This rare syndrome is most often caused by an inherited mutation in the CDH1 gene. 

It's very important to recognize people and families with this inherited syndrome, because most people who have it will develop stomach cancer. Families with HDGC typically have two or more close relatives who develop stomach cancer (usually the diffuse type), and/or at least one person who is diagnosed before age 50. Some family members might also develop invasive lobular breast cancer.

Doctors often refer people who might have HDGC to a genetics professional, so they can discuss possibly getting genetic testing. If testing is done and shows a person has a mutation (abnormal change) in the CDH1 gene, doctors often recommend they consider having their stomach removed (typically between the ages of 20 and 30) before cancer develops. However, this operation (called a total gastrectomy) can lead to long-term changes in the way a person eats.

Some other hereditary cancer syndromes are also linked with an increased risk for stomach cancer, including Lynch syndrome, familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), Li-Fraumeni syndrome, and Peutz-Jeghers syndrome. The risk of stomach cancer with these syndromes is not nearly as high as it is with HDGC, so removal of the stomach is not typically recommended for people who have these syndromes. However, doctors might recommend getting regular tests to try to find stomach cancer early in some of these people.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Bae J, Lee E, Guyatt G. Citrus fruit intake and stomach cancer risk: A quantitative systematic review. Gastric Cancer. 2008;11:23–32.

Benusiglio PR, Malka D, Rouleau E, et al. CDH1 germline mutations and the hereditary diffuse gastric and lobular breast cancer syndrome: A multicentre study. J Med Genet. 2013;50(7):486-489.

Bosetti C, Santucci C, Gallus S, Martinetti M, LaVecchia C. Aspirin and the risk of colorectal and other digestive tract cancers: An updated meta-analysis through 2019. Ann Oncol. 2020;31(5):558-568.

Choi IJ, Kim CG, Lee JY, et al. Family history of gastric cancer and Helicobacter pylori treatment. N Engl J Med. 2020;382(5):427-436.

Hebbard P, Schrader KA. Hereditary diffuse gastric cancer. UpToDate. 2020. Accessed at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/hereditary-diffuse-gastric-cancer on June 24, 2020.

National Cancer Institute. Stomach (Gastric) Cancer Prevention (PDQ®). 2020. Accessed at https://www.cancer.gov/types/stomach/hp/stomach-prevention-pdq on June 24, 2020.

Rock CL, Thomson C, Gansler T, et al. American Cancer Society guideline for diet and physical activity for cancer prevention. CA Cancer J Clin. 2020;70(4). doi:10.3322/caac.21591. Accessed at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.3322/caac.21591 on June 9, 2020.

References

Bae J, Lee E, Guyatt G. Citrus fruit intake and stomach cancer risk: A quantitative systematic review. Gastric Cancer. 2008;11:23–32.

Benusiglio PR, Malka D, Rouleau E, et al. CDH1 germline mutations and the hereditary diffuse gastric and lobular breast cancer syndrome: A multicentre study. J Med Genet. 2013;50(7):486-489.

Bosetti C, Santucci C, Gallus S, Martinetti M, LaVecchia C. Aspirin and the risk of colorectal and other digestive tract cancers: An updated meta-analysis through 2019. Ann Oncol. 2020;31(5):558-568.

Choi IJ, Kim CG, Lee JY, et al. Family history of gastric cancer and Helicobacter pylori treatment. N Engl J Med. 2020;382(5):427-436.

Hebbard P, Schrader KA. Hereditary diffuse gastric cancer. UpToDate. 2020. Accessed at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/hereditary-diffuse-gastric-cancer on June 24, 2020.

National Cancer Institute. Stomach (Gastric) Cancer Prevention (PDQ®). 2020. Accessed at https://www.cancer.gov/types/stomach/hp/stomach-prevention-pdq on June 24, 2020.

Rock CL, Thomson C, Gansler T, et al. American Cancer Society guideline for diet and physical activity for cancer prevention. CA Cancer J Clin. 2020;70(4). doi:10.3322/caac.21591. Accessed at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.3322/caac.21591 on June 9, 2020.

Last Revised: January 22, 2021

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