Regular Use of Table Salt in Food Linked to 41% Higher Risk of Gastric Cancer

Gastric cancer, commonly known as stomach cancer, ranks as the fifth most prevalent cancer worldwide. While less common in the United States, it still accounts for approximately 1.5% of new cancer diagnoses each year.

Identifying risk factors for gastric cancer is crucial for early intervention and effective treatment. A recent study published in the journal Gastric Cancer analyzed data from over 470,000 individuals to explore the correlation between the frequency of adding salt to food and the incidence of gastric cancer.

Key Findings

The study revealed that participants who consistently added salt to their food had a significantly higher risk of developing gastric cancer compared to those who rarely or never added salt. This research expands our understanding of salt-related cancer risks beyond the Asian populations typically studied.

Study Details

The prospective study utilized data from the UK Biobank, including 471,144 participants. Exclusions were made for those missing data on salt usage, BMI, urinary sodium or potassium levels, those with pre-existing cancer, and those with kidney disease.

Participants completed baseline questionnaires about their salt usage at the table (excluding cooking salt), with options ranging from never/rarely to always. Additional measurements included urinary sodium, creatinine, and potassium levels, and estimates of 24-hour urinary sodium excretion.

The study accounted for various factors such as physical activity, age, education level, ethnicity, sex, alcohol use, red meat consumption, and fruit and vegetable intake. The median follow-up period was 10.9 years, during which 640 cases of gastric cancer were documented.

Risk and Behavior Correlations

Participants who always added salt to their food were more likely to be smokers, consume higher levels of alcohol, and have lower education levels. The study found a 41% higher risk of gastric cancer in these individuals compared to those who rarely or never added salt. While there was a link between frequent salt addition and increased 24-hour urinary sodium levels, no significant association was found between these levels and gastric cancer.

Expert Insights

Dr. Anton Bilchik, a surgical oncologist not involved in the study, emphasized that the findings support the existing evidence linking high salt diets to gastric cancer.

At-Risk Populations

Factors increasing the risk of gastric cancer include smoking, age, obesity, and family history. Previous studies have also linked high salt intake to gastric cancer, particularly in Asian populations.

Study Limitations

The study cannot conclusively prove causation between salt intake and gastric cancer due to reliance on self-reported data and potential inaccuracies in measuring 24-hour urinary sodium levels. Additionally, the UK Biobank may not represent the general population, suggesting a need for more diverse studies.

Reducing Salt Consumption

To mitigate the risk of gastric cancer and other health issues like high blood pressure and kidney problems, reducing salt intake is advisable. Strategies include working with a registered dietitian to develop personalized dietary plans.

This study reinforces the importance of monitoring and moderating salt consumption as part of a broader public health strategy.

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