April 20, 2010 07:30
Salty food may increase the likelihood of stomach cancer, a comprehensive study suggests.
A team led by Dr. Kim Jeong-seon at the National Cancer Center Research Institute analyzed dietary habits of 2,248,129 people and their families aged between 30 and 80, using 1996-1997 survey data by the National Health Insurance Corporation.
They divided the group into those who normally eat salty food and those who do not, and tracked whether they had stomach cancer or not by 2003. The group that liked salt was 10 percent more likely to have stomach cancer.
Previous studies have merely shown an association between dietary habits and stomach cancer based on self-reported retrospective questionnaires, but the new study confirms that this is actually what is happening.
"Salty food damages gastric mucosa," Kim said. "We assume that the risk of stomach cancer increases when carcinogens come into the damaged stomach." However, the study does not explain the exact relationship. But the fact that stomach cancer is more common in coastal regions and that refrigerators reduced the need for salt-pickled food enabled the researchers to formulate the hypothesis.
An experiment on animals suggested that the intake of extremely salty food or injection of high-density salt water leads to damage to the gastric mucosa and atrophic gastritis.
"This study offers some explanations for the world-leading rate of stomach cancer among Koreans," Kim said.
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