Do you crave for salted foods? Does less salt in your food make you angry and reject the plate of food? If so, think twice and change the habit as salt is one of the reasons for increasing incidences of stomach cancer in India. Stomach cancer risk is 68 per cent higher among people with high salt intake compared to those with low salt intake, according to a meta-analysis.
Salt and salty foods are classified by the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research (WCRF/AICR) as a probable cause of stomach cancer. This is one of the reasons why the World Health Organisation has recommended 6gm of salt per day for a normal person and reduced it to 3.75 gm per day in case of people suffering from cardiovascular diseases and uncontrolled hypertension.
Majority diagnosed too late
By Dr P. Vijay Anand Reddy
Food high in salt like meats, fish, pickled foods and typical Indian dishes have increased the risk of nasopharyngeal cancer in the upper throat behind the nose. This incidence has been recorded at two to six per cent, according to the clinical evaluations from 12 major cancer registries in the country. The incidence of gastric cancer has been recorded at 6.8 to eight per cent, which is an alarming number.
Nasopharyngeal cancer is found among those aged between 15-25 and 50-60, while gastric cancers are seen in those 60 years and above.
Dr P. Vijay Anand Reddy, director, Apollo Cancer Hospital explains, “Majority of the patients are diagnosed too late because of the non-specific symptoms of both these cancers. Hence regular screening is recommended to detect at the earliest.”
Detection in advanced stage only
By Dr Bharat Vaswani
Unfortunately, early-stage stomach cancer rarely causes symptoms. Only 1 in 5 such cases are found at an early stage. This is one of the major reasons stomach cancer is so hard to detect early.
Dr Bharat Vaswani, consultant oncologist and haematologist at Yashoda Hospital explains, “Most of the incidences come to light when a person is complaining of constant pain in the abdomen, feeling of heaviness and also swelling of abdomen. The pain is generally not there in the earlier stage. In most of the cases, pain is felt once the disease spreads to the bones, lymphnodes or liver. In recent times, a burning sensation in the heart and indigestion have been some of the major causes where patients have come to the clinic and after tests have been diagnosed with stomach cancer. There are options to completely or partially remove the tumour through surgery. If it’s in the advanced stages then radiotherapy and chemotherapy are being done.”
Treat early for survival chances
By Dr Naidu N. Bethune
Salt intake is found to increase H. Pylori infection and/or inflame/damage stomach tissue directly. H. pylori infection is found in 60 to 80 per cent of the gastric cancers which have been recorded in North and North-eastern region in India. The other reasons for gastric cancers are spicy food, high intake of chilly, dried meat, fish and pickles. Alcohol and tobacco are also additional factors which are secondary reasons for stomach cancer.
Dr Naidu N. Bethune, consultant medical oncologist and haematologist at the American Oncology Institute explains, “Of late, we are seeing a lot of young patients suffering from an aggressive form of gastric cancers. This was not the case earlier. Change in the lifestyle is one of the reasons for these cancers striking the young early. At the same time, in younger patients, the treatment outcomes have been excellent if the cancer is detected on stage 1 and stage 2. There are 60 per cent chances of recovery and leading a quality life thereafter. Hence it is becoming very important to opt for programmes which are related to gastric health at the national level which will make people aware and also ensure regular screening.”
The most prone to stomach cancer
Helicobacter pylori (H. Pylori)
Working in rubber production
Limited/Probable risk factors
Inorganic lead compounds
Nitrate or nitrite[a]
Pickled vegetables (traditional Asian)
Salted fish, chinese-style
Symptoms to watch out for
Vague discomfort in the abdomen, usually above the navel
A sense of fullness in the upper abdomen after eating a small meal
Heartburn or indigestion
Weight loss (without trying)
Vomiting, with or without blood
Low red blood cell count (anaemia)