Clinical Features, Causes and Risk Factors of Stomach Cancer

Signs and Symptoms of Stomach Cancer; Clinical features of stomach cancer; how can I recognise stomach cancer; what causes stomach cancer; risk factors associated with stomach cancer
Medical Tutors Limited
September 19, 2021

05:09 PM

Stomach cancer is a type of cancer that does not have a recognizable form of signs or symptoms, that is why it is very difficult to detect until it's in the later stages

Signs and Symptoms


Stomach or gastric cancer is a cancer that affects older persons irrespective of their gender, yet it is not easily diagnosed. According to World Health Organization (WHO), there are typically no early signs and symptoms related to stomach cancer, that is why diagnosing stomach cancer is very difficult until it is in an advanced stage.

Early stages symptoms of stomach cancer can cause:

  • Indigestion
  • Heartburn
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Feeling full after eating small portion of meal
  • Slightly Nausea
  • Bloating after meal
  • Feeling discomfort or pain in the abdomen, and also around the breastbone
  • Vomiting, especially after eating solid food
  • Burping frequently

However, these symptoms are quite similar to some other less serious conditions, and do not necessarily mean a person has cancer, but when there is an increased risk for stomach cancer especially among those who usually have difficulties when swallowing their food; then swift medical diagnoses and treatment is advised.

As stomach tumors grow, you may have more serious symptoms, such as:

  • Stomach pain / ache
  • Constant vomiting
  • Constipation and diarrhea
  • Constant heartburn
  • Jaundice i.e., yellowish eyes or skin
  • Blood in stool and vomits
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Swelling in the stomach
  • Getting fatigue and general weakness
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Anemia

Causes and Risk Factors of Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer is one of the rarest cancers that medical scientists don’t exactly know its cause, but there are certain risk factors that can increase one’s risk of stomach cancer. There are many known risk factors for stomach cancer, but how these factors affect the cells in the stomach are not clear. Having a risk factor or some several risk factors do not necessarily mean that a person have stomach cancer.

The risk factor associated with stomach cancer includes:

Medical Conditions

For stomach cancer, there are some medical conditions that could be linked to be the cause of stomach cancer, and these conditions include:

  • Intestinal Metaplasia
  • Stomach Polyps
  • Peptic Stomach Ulcers
  • Helicobacter pylori infection in the stomach. This infectious bacterium seems to be a major cause of stomach cancer, especially in the distal part of the stomach. People with stomach cancer have a higher rate of H pylori infection than people without this cancer. H pylori infection is also linked to some types of lymphoma of the stomach. Even so, most people who carry this germ in their stomach never develop cancer.
  • Chronic Atrophic Gastritis. Whenever helicobacter pylori infection becomes a long-term stomach inflammation, it may lead to atrophic gastritis and other pre-cancerous changes in the stomach, making stomach lining thinner.
  • Pernicious Anemia. This is caused by some autoimmune conditions and some stomach surgery. And this is developed due to vitamin B12 deficiency, and with this medical condition there is an increased risk of stomach cancer.

Genetic Conditions

There are certain genetic conditions that could add to a person risk of stomach cancer, and these genetic conditions includes:

  • Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP). Caused by gene mutations i.e., APC gene, people with FAP have a slightly increased risk of getting stomach cancer.
  • Type A Blood. There are certain substances that are normally present in some types of cells and the surfacing of red blood cells, but for unknown reasons, individuals with the type A blood there is a higher risk of getting stomach cancer.
  • Lynch Syndrome. This is an inherited genetic disorder that increases the risk of stomach cancer, colon cancer and cancer of the rectum. This disorder happens when there is a mutation in the mismatch repair (MMR) genes.
  • Li-Fraumeni Syndrome. This genetic condition is caused by a gene mutation called TP53 gene. Individuals diagnosed with this syndrome have an increased risk of developing stomach cancer even at a relatively young age.


Stomach cancer is quite common in men (1 in 96) than women (1 in 152).

Family History of Stomach Cancer

An individual with a first-degree relative such as parents and siblings, who have had stomach cancer are more likely to develop stomach cancer, either with an inherited cancer syndrome or not. Although, most people who have stomach cancer do not have a history of stomach cancer, yet family history can increase the risk of having it.


A rare cancer among young people, but the risk of getting stomach cancer increases as one gets older. That is why people who gets diagnosed with stomach or gastric cancer are usually in their late 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s.

Ethnicity and Geographical Location

In USA, stomach cancer is more common in African Americans and Native Americans than Caucasians. Globally, stomach cancer is more common in East Asia, South and Central America, Eastern Europe, but it is less common in Africa and other North American countries (excluding USA) such as Canada.


When an individual is overweight (obese), there is an increased risk of developing stomach cancer especially cancer of the cardia.

Tobacco Usage (Smoking)

The use of tobacco especially through smoking can increase the risk of stomach risk, especially the upper part of the stomach closer to the esophagus. For regular and long-term smokers, the risk of stomach cancer is higher in them than those who don’t smoke.

People With Certain Occupations

Workers who work in coal, rubber, coal industries and miners have a higher risk of getting stomach cancer.

Alcohol Consumption

People who drink at least 3 times per day (chronic alcoholic consumption) tends to increase the risk of getting stomach cancer.


Individuals who tend to eat salty preserved food, processed, grilled or charcoaled meats regular tend to increase the risk of stomach cancers especially non-cardia stomach cancer. Also, eating less fruits and vegetables can also increase the risk of stomach cancer. That’s why consumption of fresh fruits (especially citrus fruits) and vegetables can help lower the risk of stomach cancer.

Previous History of Stomach Surgery

Stomach cancer can develop in people who have had surgery to their stomach especially in the removal of non-cancerous diseases of ulcer.

Common Variable Immune Deficiency (CVID)

Once an individual develops common variable immune deficiency (CVID), the immune system starts failing because antibodies development begins to reduce, making the immune system unprotected against germs. With failing antibodies, infections such as pernicious anemia and atrophic gastritis develop, and thus the risk of developing stomach cancer increases.

Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) Infection

Epstein-Barr virus causes infectious mononucleosis (also called mono). Most people are infected with this virus at some time in their lives, usually as children or teens.

EBV has been linked to nasopharyngeal cancer and to some forms of lymphoma. It is also found in the cancer cells of about 5% to 10% of people with stomach cancer, although it isn’t yet clear if the virus actually causes stomach cancer. Stomach cancers linked to EBV tend to be slower growing and have less of a tendency to spread.




[Next Article: Diagnosis of Stomach Cancer]


References: American Cancer Society; WHO; WebMD

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