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Stomach cancer deaths lowest for forty years

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by Cancer Research UK | News

24 June 2010

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Deaths from stomach cancer are the lowest since UK records began nearly 40 years ago, according to new Cancer Research UK figures released today (Thursday).

Figures from 1971 show there were more than 14,100 deaths from stomach cancer. This has dropped to fewer than 5,200 in 2008.

In 1971 there were 22.3 deaths for every 100,000 people in the UK and this has dropped to 5.5 per 100,000 in 2008. 

The drop in stomach cancer deaths reflect the dramatic fall in the number of people being diagnosed with the disease over the last 40 years.

The number of cases has dropped as living conditions have improved. Infection with the common bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), smoking and diet are three key risk factors for stomach cancer.

Better living conditions with less overcrowding has led to a decrease in H. pylori infection. Cancer Research UK researchers first revealed the link between H. pylori and stomach cancer in studies in rural China in 1990 and in middle-aged men in England and Wales in 1991.

Dr Lesley Walker, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer information, said: “These figures are fantastic news showing fewer people are now dying from stomach cancer. But with more than 5,000 deaths from the disease every year, more work needs to be done to raise awareness of how to reduce the risk of stomach cancer and improving the outcome for patients.

“Smoking doubles the risk of developing the disease with around one in five stomach cancers in Europe caused by smoking. A poor diet also increases the risk as does a family history of the disease. Persistent indigestion should be reported to the doctor as it can be a sign of stomach cancer.”

A healthy diet high in fruit, veg and fibre and low in red and processed meat and salt helps reduce the risk of many different cancers.

Stomach cancer is the seventh most common cause of cancer death and accounts for around three per cent of all cancer deaths in the UK. More men die from stomach cancer with around 3,200 deaths every year and nearly 2,000 stomach cancer deaths for women.

Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, said: “The falling number of people developing stomach cancer is further evidence of the important positive effects that improved living conditions and stopping smoking can have. A key to further reducing the number of people who die from the disease is improvements to treatment. Early diagnosis is critical with surgery being the main treatment for stomach cancer when it is diagnosed early enough. Research is taking place across the UK looking at better chemotherapy combinations and biological drugs to help patients.”


For media enquiries please contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 7061 8300 or, out of hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.