8 Risk Factors for Stomach Cancer

A healthcare worker holding a purple awareness ribbon to represent the risk factors for stomach cancer

November is Stomach Cancer Awareness Month. Also known as gastric cancer, this disease can be difficult to diagnose due to the lack of obvious symptoms. In addition, there is no current recommended screening test to spot the early stages of stomach cancer. While an upper endoscopy may be used to detect stomach cancer, physicians must base the need for an endoscopy based on the patient’s risk factors for developing stomach cancer. 

What is Stomach Cancer?

Stomach cancer occurs when healthy cells in the stomach change and begin to grow out of control. These cells can form into a tumor and may also spread to surrounding organs, lymph nodes, and other areas of the body. Stomach cancer differs from other cancers in the abdomen, like colorectal cancer or intestinal cancer. For more information about the anatomy of the stomach and the role each system plays, refer to our blog, How Your Digestive System Works.

Risk Factors for Stomach Cancer

It is important to note that while risk factors may influence the development of cancer, these risk factors alone do not cause cancer. Understanding the risk factors for stomach cancer allows you to be aware and take necessary preventative measures. If you have any questions about your risk of developing stomach cancer, ask your primary care physician, and they’ll determine if you should see a specialist at Birmingham Gastroenterology.


Stomach cancer most commonly develops in adults above the age of 55, with most diagnoses occurring in people in their 60s and 70s. Though age is not a controllable risk factor, it’s important to consider in order to be proactive with your health.


When considering the risk factors for stomach cancer, it’s important to be aware of all risk factors, big and small. While gender is a vague risk factor, it may be more consequential when coupled with other factors. Men’s risk for stomach cancer is double the risk of women developing stomach cancer. A study from MIT suggests that estrogen could be the reason why women have less of a risk.


Diets with high amounts of salt have been linked to developing stomach cancer. Sodium may damage the stomach lining over a prolonged period of time. Maintaining a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables is one of the best ways to be proactive about your overall health and reduce your risk of stomach cancer.


A common bacteria called H. pylori has been known to cause ulcers and stomach inflammation, making it one of the leading causes of stomach cancer. Fortunately, there is testing and treatment available for infections caused by H. pylori. If any of your immediate relatives have an H. pylori infection, it’s a good idea to get tested for it as well.

Family History 

Those with immediate relatives who have had stomach cancer- including parents, children, and siblings, are at an increased risk of developing stomach cancer. In addition to family medical history, stomach cancer is also more common in Black, Asian, and Hispanic people than in others.

Medical History

In addition to family history, your personal medical history, including stomach surgeries or conditions like pernicious anemia and achlorhydria increases your risk of stomach cancer. 


Like most other diseases and cancers, habits including excessive alcohol consumption and smoking increase your risk of stomach cancer and other forms of cancer. Other toxins, including exposure to fumes and dust, can also contribute to developing stomach cancer.


Studies have shown a correlation between obesity and the risk of stomach cancer, especially for males and among non-Asians. While there is still no evidence to suggest a connection between obesity and a woman’s risk of stomach cancer, maintaining a healthy weight benefits your health in numerous other ways and can help prevent the onset of other diseases and cancers.

Contact Birmingham Gastroenterology

If you are experiencing issues with your digestive system, contact the team at Birmingham Gastroenterology Associates. We can help diagnose digestive problems and work with you to help your digestive system regain its normal function. To make an appointment to discuss your symptoms and treatment options, call us at (205) 271-8000.

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