Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020. This is despite billions of investment into finding a cure. However, progress is afoot and one encouraging area is risk reduction.
Research continues to deepen the understanding of how specific lifestyle decisions can influence your risk of developing cancer.
Diet is the subject of ongoing research but a number of items have been shown to increase the risk of cancer.
One of the most surprising discoveries is that preserved non-starchy vegetables can increase the risk of developing stomach cancer.
That’s the assessment of a comprehensive analysis conducted by the cancer charity World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).
Food preservation can be defined as the process of treating and handling food in such a way as to stop or greatly slow down spoilage and prevent food-borne illness while maintaining nutritional value, texture and flavour.
To maximise a food’s longevity, it is often salted and pickled – a process which is thought to drive the development of stomach cancer.
According to the WCRF, animal models have shown that high salt levels alter the viscosity of the mucus protecting the stomach and enhance the formation of N-nitroso compounds.
“In addition, high salt intake may stimulate the colonization of H. pylori, the strongest known risk factor for stomach cancer,” the cancer charity warns.
“Finally, in animal models, high salt levels have been shown to be responsible for the primary cellular damage that results in the promotion of stomach cancer development.”
In the charity’s conclusion, it states that there is “strong evidence” that foods preserved by salting (including preserved non-starchy vegetables) increase the risk of stomach cancer.
What counts as a non-starchy vegetable?
Vegetables can be separated into groups according to their individual starch content.
Examples of non-starchy vegetables include:
- Carrots, beets, parsnips, turnips and swedes as well as green, leafy vegetables (such as spinach and lettuce)
- Cruciferous vegetables (the cabbage family, for example, bok choy [pak choy], broccoli, cabbage and watercress)
- And allium vegetables (such as onions, garlic and leeks).
Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes (yams), cassava (manioc), sago yams and taro contain higher levels of carbohydrate than non-starchy vegetables.
Mounting evidence illustrates the risks associated with salting and pickling foods.
A landmark study published in the British Journal of Cancer found that people who eat a regular diet of highly salted food double their risk of stomach cancer according to a report published in the British Journal of Cancer.
The study, based on around 40,000 middle-aged Japanese, examined dietary, drinking and smoking habits over an 11-year period.
The study showed that the risk of stomach cancer for Japanese men with the lowest salt intake was one in 1000 per year. This doubled to one in 500 among those with the highest salt intake.
Main symptoms of stomach cancer
There are many possible symptoms of stomach cancer, but they might be hard to spot.
According to the NHS, they can affect your digestion, such as:
- Heartburn or acid reflux
- Having problems swallowing (dysphagia)
- Feeling or being sick
- Symptoms of indigestion, such as burping a lot
- Feeling full very quickly when eating.
Other symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite or losing weight without trying to
- A lump at the top of your tummy
- Pain at the top of your tummy
- Feeling tired or having no energy.