Cancer of the stomach used to have the highest mortality rate of all the cancers worldwide. However, in the US the rate of new stomach cancer has declined since 1935 and is now less than 1/3 of the rate of where it used to be. To the contrary, in Japan as well as in Eastern Europe the stomach cancer rate has remained high.
In other countries, such as the South American countries Costa Rica and Chile, stomach cancer rates have also stayed high. Key to good 5-year survival rates is early detection through cancer screening with gastroscopy as it is practiced in Japan. In Japan the cancer rate is coming down in those patients who are closely screened for stomach cancer. This idea has not caught on well yet in the US where the orientation is still more curative than preventative. Much can be done also in terms of avoidance of carcinogens from various sources, which at the present time seems to not be too popular with the public (Ref.1 and 2).
Statistics of stomach cancer
In the US there were 22,800 new cases of stomach cancer per year and 14,700 died from this cancer during the same time (Ref.2). While the mortality rate of stomach cancer in the U.S. was around 8 cases/100,000 population in 1995, in Japan this rate was 32/100,000. In 1970 the mortality rate in Japan was 68/100,000 new cases of stomach cancer (Ref.3), in other words less than half in a period of only 25 years.
This illustrates how different this disease can be in different countries around the world and it also shows what difference screening with gastroscopy can make. The cancer survival statistics are extremely poor in the US, largely because the patients are usually in a late stage of cancer at the time of diagnosis when the survival figures are inherently poor. This is the reason why the survival rate is only 5 to 15% in the US. Stomach cancer is twice as common among males compared to females and black males have stomach cancer 1.5 times more often than white males. Stomach cancer occurs between the ages of 40 and 70 with the peak in the late 60’s.
1. Cancer: Principles &Practice of Oncology.4th edition. Edited by Vincent T. DeVita, Jr. et al. Lippincott, Philadelphia,PA, 1993. Chapter on Cancer of the stomach.
2. Cancer: Principles&Practice of Oncology. 5th edition, volume 1. Edited by Vincent T. DeVita, Jr. et al. Lippincott-Raven Publ., Philadelphia,PA, 1997. Chapter on Cancer of the stomach.
3. J Sun et al. Eur J Cancer Prev 2001 Feb;10(1):61-67.
4. SS Mirvish et al. Nutr Cancer 1998;31(2):106-110.
5. JM van Maanen et al. Cancer Detect Prev 1998;22(3):204-212.
6. JM van Maanen et al. Environ Health Perspect 1996 May;104(5):522-528.
7. B. Sears: “The age-free zone”.Regan Books, Harper Collins, 2000.
8. B. Sears: “Zone perfect meals in minutes”. Regan Books, Harper Collins, 1997.
9. K Murakami et al. Am J Clin Pathol 2001 Feb;115(2):224-34.
10. Y Tsubono et al. N Engl J Med 2001 Mar 1;344(9):632-636.