Gastric Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version

General Information About Gastric Cancer

Incidence and Mortality

Estimated new cases and deaths from gastric cancer in the United States in 2018:[1]

  • New cases: 26,240.
  • Deaths: 10,800.


Management of adenocarcinoma histology, which accounts for 90% to 95% of all gastric malignancies, is discussed in this summary. There are changing epidemiologic patterns in the United States regarding the anatomic location of esophagogastric cancers, with a trend of decreased occurrence of distal or noncardia gastric cancers.[2] However, in persons aged 25 to 39 years, there has been an increase in the incidence of noncardia gastric cancers from 0.27 cases per 100,000 individuals (1977–1981) to 0.45 cases per 100,000 individuals (2002–2006).[2] Additional studies are needed to confirm the observed increases in noncardia gastric cancers in this specific age group.

In contrast to the overall stable trend for noncardia gastric cancers, earlier studies demonstrated an increased incidence of adenocarcinomas of the gastric cardia of 4% to 10% per year from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s.[3] Similarly, the incidence of gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinomas increased sharply, from 1.22 cases per 100,000 individuals (1973–1978) to 2.00 cases per 100,000 individuals (1985–1990).[4] Since that time, the incidence has remained steady at 1.94 cases per 100,000 individuals (2003–2008).[4] More recent data demonstrate that the incidence of gastric cardia cancers has been relatively stable, although an increase has been observed, from 2.4 cases per 100,000 individuals (1977–1981) to 2.9 cases per 100,000 individuals (2001–2006) in the Caucasian population.[2] The reasons for these temporal changes in incidence are unclear.

Risk Factors

In the United States, gastric cancer ranks 14th in incidence among the major types of cancer. While the precise etiology is unknown, acknowledged risk factors for gastric cancer include the following:[5-7]

  • Helicobacter pylori gastric infection.
  • Advanced age.
  • Male gender.
  • Diet low in fruits and vegetables.
  • Diet high in salted, smoked, or preserved foods.
  • Chronic atrophic gastritis.
  • Intestinal metaplasia.
  • Pernicious anemia.
  • Gastric adenomatous polyps.
  • Family history of gastric cancer.
  • Cigarette smoking.
  • Menetrier disease (giant hypertrophic gastritis).
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis.

Prognosis and Survival

The prognosis of patients with gastric cancer is related to tumor extent and includes both nodal involvement and direct tumor extension beyond the gastric wall.[8,9] Tumor grade may also provide some prognostic information.[10]

In localized distal gastric cancer, more than 50% of patients can be cured. However, early-stage disease accounts for only 10% to 20% of all cases diagnosed in the United States. The remaining patients present with metastatic disease in either regional or distant sites. The overall survival rate in these patients at 5 years ranges from almost no survival for patients with disseminated disease to almost 50% survival for patients with localized distal gastric cancers confined to resectable regional disease. Even with apparent localized disease, the 5-year survival rate of patients with proximal gastric cancer is only 10% to 15%. Although the treatment of patients with disseminated gastric cancer may result in palliation of symptoms and some prolongation of survival, long remissions are uncommon.

Gastrointestinal stromal tumors occur most commonly in the stomach. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors Treatment for more information.)

Related Summaries

Other PDQ summaries containing information related to gastric cancer include the following:

  1. American Cancer Society: Cancer Facts and Figures 2018. Atlanta, Ga: American Cancer Society, 2018. Available online. Last accessed August 3, 2018.
  2. Anderson WF, Camargo MC, Fraumeni JF Jr, et al.: Age-specific trends in incidence of noncardia gastric cancer in US adults. JAMA 303 (17): 1723-8, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Blot WJ, Devesa SS, Kneller RW, et al.: Rising incidence of adenocarcinoma of the esophagus and gastric cardia. JAMA 265 (10): 1287-9, 1991. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Buas MF, Vaughan TL: Epidemiology and risk factors for gastroesophageal junction tumors: understanding the rising incidence of this disease. Semin Radiat Oncol 23 (1): 3-9, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Kurtz RC, Sherlock P: The diagnosis of gastric cancer. Semin Oncol 12 (1): 11-8, 1985. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. Scheiman JM, Cutler AF: Helicobacter pylori and gastric cancer. Am J Med 106 (2): 222-6, 1999. [PUBMED Abstract]
  7. Fenoglio-Preiser CM, Noffsinger AE, Belli J, et al.: Pathologic and phenotypic features of gastric cancer. Semin Oncol 23 (3): 292-306, 1996. [PUBMED Abstract]
  8. Siewert JR, Böttcher K, Stein HJ, et al.: Relevant prognostic factors in gastric cancer: ten-year results of the German Gastric Cancer Study. Ann Surg 228 (4): 449-61, 1998. [PUBMED Abstract]
  9. Nakamura K, Ueyama T, Yao T, et al.: Pathology and prognosis of gastric carcinoma. Findings in 10,000 patients who underwent primary gastrectomy. Cancer 70 (5): 1030-7, 1992. [PUBMED Abstract]
  10. Adachi Y, Yasuda K, Inomata M, et al.: Pathology and prognosis of gastric carcinoma: well versus poorly differentiated type. Cancer 89 (7): 1418-24, 2000. [PUBMED Abstract]