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Stomach Cancer Rates Drop in Europe

Researchers suspect lifestyle changes played a part

FRIDAY, Feb. 6, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Stomach cancer rates have declined rapidly in Europe, says a study in the current issue of the Annals of Oncology.

The study found stomach cancer rates in European Union (EU) countries fell by half between 1980 and 1999, by 45 percent in Eastern Europe, and by 40 percent in Russia.

During that time, stomach cancer rates in the EU declined from 18.6 per 100,000 to 9.8 per 100,000. In Eastern Europe, the rates went from 27.9 per 100,000 to 16.1 per 100,000 and from 51.6 to 32 in the Russian Federation.

Denmark had the lowest rate of stomach cancer in the late 1990s, at 5.2 per 100,000 in men and 2.7 per 100,000 in women.

While the reasons for the decline are complex and not fully understood, the study suggests a number of possible factors. These include: a more varied and affluent diet; better food conservation, including refrigeration; reduced smoking; and better control of Helicobacter pylori infection -- a bacterium linked to stomach cancer.

The Swiss, Italian and Spanish researchers who conducted the study say this downward trend will continue, at least for the near future. That's because the decline in stomach cancer is evident in younger and middle-aged people, as well as the elderly.

The study examined trends between 1950 and 1999 in 25 European countries, the EU as a whole, six central and eastern European nations, and Russia. There were some major differences between these areas.

In general, stomach cancer rates are higher in central and eastern Europe, Portugal, Italy and Spain. Despite the overall decline in cases in Europe, stomach cancer remains a major public health issue in a number of countries, the study says.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about stomach cancer.

SOURCE: Annals of Oncology, news release, Feb. 3, 2004
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