Stomach Cancer: Risk Factors

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2023

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about the factors that increase the chance of developing stomach cancer. Use the menu to see other pages.

What are the risk factors for stomach cancer?

A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of developing cancer. Although risk factors often influence the development of cancer, most do not directly cause cancer. Some people with several risk factors never develop cancer, while others with no known risk factors do. Knowing your risk factors and talking about them with your doctor may help you make more informed lifestyle and health care choices.

The following factors may raise a person’s risk of developing stomach cancer:

  • Age. Stomach cancer occurs most commonly in people older than 55. Most people diagnosed with stomach cancer are in their 60s and 70s.

  • Sex. Men are twice as likely to develop stomach cancer as women.

  • Bacteria. A common bacterium called Helicobacter pylori, also called H. pylori, causes stomach inflammation and ulcers. It is also considered one of the main causes of stomach cancer. Testing for H. pylori is available and an infection can be treated with antibiotics. Testing for H. pylori is recommended if you have had a first-degree relative, such as a parent, sibling, or child, who has been diagnosed with stomach cancer or an H. pylori infection. Other family members could have it as well, and the infection should be treated if found.

  • Family history/genetics. People who have a parent, child, or sibling who has had stomach cancer have a higher risk of the disease. In addition, certain inherited genetic disorders, such as hereditary diffuse gastric cancer, Lynch syndrome, hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC), and familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) may increase the risk of stomach cancer. Learn more about genetics and cancer.

  • Race/ethnicity. Stomach cancer is more common in Black, Hispanic, and Asian people than in White people.

  • Diet. Eating a diet high in salt has been linked to an increased risk of stomach cancer. This includes foods preserved by drying, smoking, salting, or pickling and foods high in added salt. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables may help lower the risk.

  • Previous surgery or health conditions. People who have had stomach surgery, pernicious anemia, or achlorhydria have a higher risk of stomach cancer. Pernicious anemia happens when the stomach cannot take in enough vitamin B12. This causes a severe decrease in red blood cells. Achlorhydria is when there there is no hydrochloric acid in the gastric juices, which help digest food.

  • Occupational exposure. Exposure to certain dusts and fumes may increase the risk of developing stomach cancer.

  • Tobacco and alcohol. Tobacco use and drinking a lot of alcohol may increase the risk of developing stomach cancer.

  • Obesity. Excess body weight increases a man’s risk of developing stomach cancer. It is not clear whether obesity increases a woman’s risk of stomach cancer.

The next section in this guide is Symptoms and Signs. It explains the body changes or medical problems that stomach cancer can cause. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.