Stomach cancer isn't as common in the United States compared to other countries, not even ranking in the top 20 for the highest rates. However, it is rated seventh in the most common cause of death from cancer in the U.S.¹
Research shows around 28,000² people are diagnosed with stomach cancer each year in the United States. The American Cancer Society³ estimates that there will be about 26,560 new cases in 2021 and 11,180 deaths from stomach cancer in the same year.
Below, we have a breakdown of stomach cancer survival rates in terms of cancer type, stage, age, and race — followed by the best ways to reduce the risk and the chances it will return.
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The five most common stomach cancers are:
Gastrointestinal stromal tumors, or GISTs
Other rare subtypes
Adenocarcinomas are the most commonly diagnosed type of stomach cancer, accounting for 90-95%² of cases. The Cancer Center⁴ reports that lymphomas account for 4%, Carcinoid or neuroendocrine neoplasms make up about 3% of diagnoses, and other types are even less common.
Survival rates based on the type of stomach cancer you have differ depending on the stage of your stomach cancer and whether your cancer has spread outside the stomach.
Research shows⁵ that for most types of stomach cancer patients, the outlook for diagnosed patients is that 42% will live for at least one year after, 19% for up to five years, and 15% for at least 10 years after diagnosis.
Since the SEER database doesn't group stomach cancer stages like many other cancers (i.e., stage 1, stage 2, etc.), research reports survival statistics based on localized, regional, and distant stages.
Localized refers to the stage in which your stomach cancer has stayed localized in the stomach, not yet spreading outside the stomach.
Regional refers to the next stage where your cancer spreads to areas outside the stomach, typically the lymph nodes.
Distant refers to the third stage where your stomach cancer has spread into distant parts of the body, usually making its way into your liver.
According to the American Cancer Society⁶, the five-year relative survival rate for people diagnosed with stomach cancer is at 70% when your cancer is in the localized stage, 32% when your cancer moves into the regional stage, and drops to 6% when your cancer moves into distant parts of the body.
The report found that the overall five-year relative survival rate for people diagnosed with stomach cancer in all stages is 32%.
Stomach cancer is most common among older age groups. The average diagnosis age is reported by recent research³ to be around 68, with about six of ten patients diagnosed with stomach cancer being 65 years old or older.
According to a 2019 study⁷, stomach cancer is most common in age groups between 50 and 70, with diagnosis affecting men more at this age than women. Previous studies have found that the percentage of gastric cancer in patients under 40 years old is estimated at a level of 2% to 8%. This remained to be true in this study, with results reaching 4%.
Survival rates for both men and women vary by the age of diagnosis, with research finding⁸ that the older your age, the lower your chances of five-year survival:
15 to 39 survival rates: men — 35%, women — 33%
40 to 49 survival rates: men — 29%, women — 31%
50 to 59 survival rates: men — 24%, women — 26%
60 to 69 survival rates: men — 23%, women — 25%
70 to 79 survival rates: men — 19%, women — 22%
80 to 99 survival rates: men — 8%, women — 9%
Race and ethnicity are other factors that can affect stomach cancer survival rates. Although there hasn't been significant research done evaluating the differences in gastric cancer diagnosis and survival, a 2014 study⁹ has explored the topic in-depth.
According to its findings:
Asian individuals have the highest rates of stomach cancer diagnosis (15.6 per 100,000 people per year), more than doubling the diagnosis among whites (7.4 per 100,000 people per year).
Black individuals were 12.8 per 100,000 people per year, and Hispanics were 12.9 per 100,000 people per year.
Asian individuals were also found to have the highest survival rates, averaging around 26.6% for three-year survival rates.
Another 2014 study¹⁰ found that:
Black, Hispanic, and Asian individuals had the lowest percentage of proximal tumors — whites had the highest. These findings suggest that the highest survival rates are among the former because proximal tumors are associated with worse survival odds.
Asian individuals were more likely to have localized diseases, which have the highest rate of survival. This is likely why Asian individuals have the highest survival rate despite being diagnosed more often.
Although stomach cancer is only ranked seventh as the most common cancer in the U.S., it is the fifth most common¹¹ cancer worldwide. Diagnoses are less common in the United States than in dozens of other countries around the world.
Diagnosis and fatalities in stomach cancer are more prevalent among American men than women.
According to ASCO¹², there will be an estimated 26,560 stomach cancer diagnoses in the U.S. in 2021. Of those diagnoses, 16,160 will be men, and 10,400 will be women.
The report also found that there will be about 11,180 deaths from stomach cancer in 2021, with 6,740 men and 4,440 women losing their lives to cancer.
Although there is no guaranteed way to prevent being diagnosed with stomach cancer, there are some reliable preventative measures you can take to reduce your risk.
Three lifestyle changes, in particular, can reduce your risk include quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, and keeping your diet healthy and full of fruits and vegetables.
A 2019 study¹³ found that smoking is the cause behind 11% of global stomach cancers (17% of cases in Europe). Adding more fruit and veggies to your diet can lower your risk by 37%, and moderate alcohol consumption was shown to increase gastric cancer risk by 39% (with odds increasing substantially among heavy drinkers).
However, there have not been any consistent associations between alcohol in moderation and stomach cancer. A 2017 study¹⁴ reports that heavy drinkers had an increased chance of being diagnosed with stomach cancer due to alcohol assisting in harmful chemicals getting into the cell lining more easily.
On the other hand, a 2018 study¹⁵ found that wine in moderation and a healthy diet a linked to cancer prevention. In fact, the study reports that clinical trials revealed that 5-7 portions of fruit and vegetables in addition to two glasses of wine a day could lead to a longer and healthier life.
This suggests that heavy drinking may be a risk factor, but wine in moderation may be beneficial.
It is possible to destroy or remove gastric cancers. Although it can be very exciting to finish treatment, many people struggle with the years that follow with the concern and fear of its return. However, it doesn't always come back.
According to a 2016 study¹⁶, recurrence occurred for only 20.5% of patients. Of those 266 patients, 182 experienced their cancer coming back within less than two years, 61 patients were between two and five years, and 23 patients were after five years of successful treatment.
The study found that the chances of stomach cancer returning after five years was heavily linked to age, operation type, stage, tumor size, and location of the cancer recurrence.
Stomach cancer statistics are based on previous diagnoses and outcomes. However, it does not and cannot predict the outcomes of individual cases. With that in mind, research has shown:
Stomach cancer survival rates often vary by age, race, and type of cancer. As stomach cancer patients get older, the odds of survival drop.
Studies have shown that preventative measures can reduce your risk of being diagnosed with stomach cancer. Three areas that research indicates to make a significant difference are quitting smoking, having a healthier diet, and limiting alcohol consumption.
The chances of stomach cancer returning is about 20.5%, with most patients' cancer coming back in the first two years following successful treatment.
Stomach Cancer | Cedars Sinai
Stomach Cancer | National Organization for Rare Disorders
Key Statistics About Stomach Cancer | American Cancer Society
Types of stomach cancer | Cancer Treatment Centers of America
Stomach cancer | NHS Inform
Stomach Cancer Survival Rates | American Cancer Society
Stomach cancer survival statistics | Cancer Research UK
Stomach cancer statistics | World Cancer Research Fund
Stomach Cancer: Statistics | Cancer.Net