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Stomach Cancer: Know Your Risk



South Corean actress and model Jang Jin Yeong
Dec 28, 04:58 pm

     In 2009, South Corean actress and former model Jang Jin-yeong passed away of stomach cancer at thirty-five—a reminder that not even the young and beautiful are immune to deadly disease. The fact that she was seemingly vibrant, fit and only 35 years old should serve as a serious call for other Asian women to examine their own risks.

     Asian American women have the highest rates of new cases of stomach cancer compared to all other groups of women in the US (rates almost three times higher than Caucasian women), with the median age of stomach cancer occurrence at 74 years old.

History of Stomach Cancer:

     Stomach cancer was once the second most common cancer in the world, but over the past half century has plummeted in rankings to fourteenth, primarily attributed to the wide use of refrigeration, which resulted in several major lifestyle changes: increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, decreased intake of salt (which had previously been used as a preservative), and decreased contamination of foods from the decay of unrefrigerated meat products (leading to chronic infection of H pylori bacteria).

Risks Among Asians:

     Even still, stomach cancer rates in East Asia are disproportionately high compared to other developed countries around the world; as Japan, Korea and China are still considered high-risk areas ranking among many less developed countries worldwide. In fact, Japan ranks number two after Chile as having the highest stomach cancer death-rate recorded. Additionally, Korean men and women are 5 to 7 times as likely as Caucasians to develop stomach cancer, according to Melissa McCracken, an epidemiologist with the cancer society report.

     By the 1960s, Japan’s recorded incidence of stomach cancer became so high that routine gastric screenings were introduced. Examination of the Japanese diet revealed important clues into potential lifestyle risks: a diet high in smoked fish and soy sauce, smoking cigarettes and consuming alcohol.

     This brings us to a common staple in the Asian diet: pickled vegetables. Scientists have shown that pickled foods (containing high levels of salt and nitrites/nitrates) damage the gastric mucosa (the stomach’s mucous membrane), causing inflammation and an increase in DNA synthesis and cell proliferation, or, in other words, growing cell mutation.

     While it no longer remains the second most common cancer in the world, stomach cancer is still one of the most deadly, accounting for the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the world.

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