Gastric cancer and acetaldehyde

What is gastric cancer?

Gastric or stomach cancer is a common disorder that may remain asymptomatic for long periods of time. In Finland alone, there are nearly 1,000 diagnosed cases of gastric cancer. Gastric cancer refers to forms of cancer that develop from glands in the inner lining of the stomach.

Stomach cancer is a common cause of death as it has a low survival rate in comparison to other cancers. The stomach is a large cavity in which a cancerous tumour can grow significant in size before it becomes symptomatic. The prognosis for stomach cancer depends on its degree of distribution when detected.

Risks associated with gastric cancer

A stomach with low or no acidity is a significant risk factor for gastric cancer. We carry billions of bacteria and microbes naturally in our mouths that travel to the stomach with saliva. These microbes perform crucial tasks in digestion. A healthy stomach always contains gastric acid that eliminates entering bacteria.

In an anacidic stomach, this acidic layer of protection is lost and bacteria are left free to thrive in the stomach. Once in the stomach, they can ferment alcohol in food into acetaldehyde, which has been classified by the WHO as a carcinogenic substance.

If both the upper and lower mucous membrane of the stomach are destroyed, the risk of gastric cancer is increased by a factor of up to 90 compared with a person with normal secretion of gastric acid.

An infection of Helicobacter pylori may also cause an anacidic stomach. In about 10-20 percent of patients with H. pylori, the infection leads to the development of peptic or duodenal ulceration over the years and increases the risk of gastric cancer by a factor of 2-6.
Peptic ulcer and partial gastrectomy also pose a heightened risk of gastric cancer. The risk of gastric cancer increases with age.