Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Causes and risk factors

What causes stomach cancer?

The exact cause of stomach cancer is not known, although there are many risk factors believed to contribute to cells in the stomach becoming cancerous.

What are the risk factors for stomach cancer?

The following are suggested as risk factors for stomach cancer:

  • Helicobacter pylori infection.
  • Diet that includes large amounts of the following:
    • Smoked foods.
    • Salted fish and meat.
    • Foods high in starch and low in fiber. 
    • Pickled vegetables. 
    • Foods and beverages that contain nitrates and nitrites.
  • Tobacco abuse.
  • Alcohol abuse. 
  • Previous stomach surgery. 
  • Megaloblastic (pernicious) anemia (caused by vitamin B12 deficiency). 
  • Menetrier’s disease. 
  • Age 55 or older (most patients are in their 60s or 70s).
  • Male gender (more men are diagnosed with the disease than women). 
  • Having blood type A. 
  •  Family history of the following:
    • Hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC). 
    • Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). 
    • Stomach cancer.
  • History of stomach polyps.
  • Exposure to environmental factors such as dusts and fumes in the workplace.