Stomach cancer, also referred to as gastric cancer, occurs when cells in the stomach grow uncontrollably. These cells begin growing on the inner layer of the organ and as the cancer advances it moves into deeper layers. Doctors often do not detect the earliest stages of stomach cancer due to a lack of symptoms, but it does tend to develop over several years. Men over the age of 50 are more likely to develop the disease. Another risk factor includes ethnicity, Hispanics, African Americans, Asians, and Pacific Islanders are more prone to stomach cancer than whites. High consumption of smoked, pickled, or salted foods is also linked to this health problem as these items have nitrates which the H pylori bacteria, commonly found in the stomach, can convert into cancer causing chemicals. Smoking, obesity, and prior stomach surgeries also contribute to the likelihood of developing stomach cancer. This article takes a look at the countries with the highest prevalence of stomach cancer.
Countries With The Highest Prevalence Of Stomach Cancer
Around the world, gastric cancer is the fourth most common cancer and the second leading cause of death. As the populations in Asian and Latin American countries continue to age, the probability of more diagnoses also increases. The prevalence of and deaths caused by stomach cancer are 71% higher in less-developed and developing nations. This follows a typical truth of nearly all diseases, particularly because these countries typically lack the public health infrastructure needed for prevention and treatment. Stomach cancer, if detected in early stages, is treatable. Deaths are expected to increase, particularly in Latin America, a region which already has higher than average mortality rates. The top countries are listed below:
Republic of Korea
The Republic of Korea, also known as South Korea, has the highest incidence of stomach cancer in the world. On average, 41.8 people out of every 100,000 will develop this disease in their lifetime. Some studies suggest that this propensity could be tied to high salt intake as part of the traditional diet. Due to advanced screening practices, the survival rate is 65% which is higher than many countries.
The second highest rate of stomach cancer is found in Mongolia where 32.5 out of 100,000 develop it annually. The mortality rate of diagnosed patients is more than 7 times that of the United States (approximately 29%). Stomach cancer is the second leading cause of death among female cancer patients in this country.
Japan is next on this list with a prevalence rate of 29.9 out of 100,000. In this Asian country, stomach cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed and medical professionals manage a screening program to detect it in its earliest stages. This screening involves an X-ray and an endoscopy procedure; if cancerous or precancerous cells are detected, surgery is performed. As with South Korea and Mongolia, the diet consists of highly salted, preserved foods which could contribute to incidences of the disease. Additionally, Japanese men report a high-stress lifestyle and high occurrence of stomach ulcers. Some medical professionals believe these two factors should also be considered.
The first non-Asian country on the list is Guatemala where 23.7 out of 100,000 people are diagnosed with stomach cancer every year. Here, the high rates are associated with populations living at high altitudes. In fact, mapped diagnoses tend to follow the Sierra Madre mountain range.
Treatment for stomach cancer depends on the stage of its progression. When cancer is found only in the lining of the stomach, surgery can be performed. In Stage 1, 2, and 3 of the disease, chemotherapy or chemoradiation therapy may be prescribed to try to shrink the tumor before removing it. During these surgeries, nearby lymph nodes are typically removed to prevent continued cell growth and spread. Post-surgery typically involves continued chemotherapy treatment. Stage 4 is very advanced and does not usually have a successful cure. In this stage, the main goal is the patient’s comfort and trying to control the spread of the disease. Targeted treatment may also be utilized at this stage.