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Stomach Cancer Appears Different in Younger Patients
  • Steven Reinberg
  • Posted December 31, 2019

Stomach Cancer Appears Different in Younger Patients

Stomach cancer among many people under 60 appears more deadly than when it occurs to older people, a new study finds.

This new form of cancer is genetically different from other stomach cancer and grows and spreads faster. It is also resistant to the usual chemotherapy, researchers say.

Although the rate of stomach cancer in older people has been falling for years, this cancer that strikes younger adults has been increasing and now accounts for almost a third of stomach cancers.

"I think this is an alarming trend, as stomach cancer is a devastating disease," said study co-author Dr. Travis Grotz, a surgical oncologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

"There is little awareness in the U.S. of the signs and symptoms of stomach cancer, and many younger patients may be diagnosed late -- when treatment is less effective," he said in a Mayo Clinic news release.

Grotz's team looked at records of more than 75,000 cases of stomach cancer between 1973 and 2015.

Stomach cancer among older adults decreased by 2% each year during the study period. Among younger adults, however, it decreased by 2% a year from 1973 to 1995 and then rose 1.5% a year through 2013.

That increase remained whether the researchers looked at cancers diagnosed at 40, 50 or 60 years.

In 1995, early stomach cancer made up 18% of all stomach cancers, but now accounts for 30%, the researchers said.

"Typically, we see stomach cancer being diagnosed in patients in their 70s, but increasingly we are seeing 30- to 50-year-old patients being diagnosed," Grotz said.

Moreover, the usual risk factors for stomach cancer among older adults, such as smoking, did not seem to apply to this early-onset stomach cancer.

"Hopefully, studies like this will raise awareness and increase physician suspicion of stomach cancer, particularly in younger patients," Grotz said.

The researchers hope to identify risk factors for this new form of stomach cancer.

The report was published in a recent issue of the journal Surgery.

More information

To learn more about stomach cancer, visit the American Cancer Society.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, news release, Dec. 24, 2019
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