Stomach cancer: more than 30% of cases affect under-60s

The study shows that a new form of early-onset cancer spreads more quickly and is more resistant to traditionally administered chemotherapy treatments.

An American research study has highlighted an alarming increase in the number of stomach cancers affecting patients aged under 60. According to the authors of the study, the new form of early-onset cancer spreads more quickly and is more resistant to traditionally administered chemotherapy treatments. 

Stomach cancer remains one of the most common forms of cancer. According to the World Health Organization, the disease was responsible for 754,000 deaths worldwide in 2015. Today, the average age of  onset for stomach cancer is 68, but people in their 30s, 40s and 50s are now more at risk than before, according to a study conducted by doctors at the US's Mayo Clinic.

"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," points out Dr. Travis Grotz, a Mayo Clinic surgical oncologist and the senior author of the study. 

The study published in Surgery, suggests that a "genetically and clinically distinct" disease could be the cause of the 30% of stomach cancer cases that affect patients aged under 60. It also notes that this form of the disease is particularly worrying inasmuch as it appears to be more resistant to chemotherapy. 

Abdominal pain and unintentional weight loss are warning signs

The research team studied 75,225 cases from several cancer databases and examined stomach cancer statistics from 1973 to 2015. Their results showed that the incidence rate of late-onset stomach cancer decreased by 1.8% per year over the study period, while early-onset disease decreased by 1.9% per year from 1973 to 1995 and then increased by 1.5% until 2013.

"The proportion of early onset gastric cancer has doubled from 18% of all cases in 1995 to now more than 30% of all gastric cancer cases," point out the researchers, who do not accept that the higher rate has been caused by earlier diagnosis of the disease."There is no universal screening for stomach cancer, and the younger patients actually presented with later-stage disease than the older patients," explains Dr. Grotz. 

"Younger patients who feel full before finishing a meal, or have reflux, abdominal pain, unintentional weight loss and difficulty eating should see their health care provider," recommends Dr Grotz.