Experts have linked certain foods to an increased stomach cancer risk. While some research suggests that spicy foods are a risk factor, no conclusive evidence proves this.

According to research, foods that increase a person’s risk of stomach cancer include salt-preserved fish, meat, and vegetables and processed, grilled, or charcoal-cooked meats.

So far, research has not found a causal link between spicy foods and stomach cancer. Furthermore, various studies have found that spicy foods may have positive health benefits, such as protecting against cancer.

Read on to learn more about the link between spicy food and stomach cancer.

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Some evidence suggests that a diet high in spicy foods may increase the risk of developing stomach cancer. However, the link is not definitive.

Capsaicin, the compound in chilies and red peppers responsible for the spicy sensation in many foods, may irritate the stomach lining and increase stomach acid production. This can lead to inflammation and damage to the stomach lining, potentially increasing stomach cancer risk over time.

However, experts have conflicting opinions on the role of capsaicin in cancer.

An analysis of more than 500,000 people in China showed that it protects against the risk of gastrointestinal (GI) cancers, especially oesophageal cancer.

Interestingly, another smaller analysis of various countries found mixed evidence.

There appeared to be a dose-dependent effect: large amounts of capsaicin consumption significantly increased the risk of stomach cancer. However, a modest intake had a protective effect.

It is important to note that many other factors can contribute to the development of stomach cancer, including age, gender, and lifestyle factors such as smoking and alcohol consumption. Therefore, while spicy food consumption may play a role in developing stomach cancer, it is not a definitive cause.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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Experts are not clear on what causes stomach cancer. However, they believe it begins when the stomach lining is damaged.

However, they have identified several risk factors that increase a person’s chances of developing the disease, including:

  • Age: It is most common in those ages 60–80.
  • Biological sex: It affects males more often than females.
  • Race and ethnicity: People of African, Hispanic, and Native American heritage have the highest risk.
  • Geographical location: Stomach cancer occurs more frequently in East Asia, Europe, and South America.
  • Genetics: The risk is higher if a person has a close relative with stomach cancer.
  • Helicobacter pylori infection: Experts link this bacterial infection to stomach cancer.
  • Smoking: Smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop stomach cancer.
  • Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption may increase the risk of stomach cancer.
  • Obesity: Being overweight and having obesity increases the risk of some cancers, including stomach cancer.

Stomach cancer treatment depends on the location and spread of the cancer, and other factors, such as a person’s age and overall health.

Surgery to remove the tumor or a section of the stomach may be sufficient in the early stages. However, a person may require other treatments to destroy remaining cancer cells, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Newer options, including targeted drugs and immunotherapy, are helpful in some cases.

People cannot avoid certain stomach cancer risk factors such as age, sex, and genetics.

However, they can reduce their chances of developing the disease by making lifestyle changes, including:

  • maintaining a moderate weight through diet and exercise
  • quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke
  • limiting alcohol intake
  • reducing consumption of processed meats and salted meats, fish, and vegetables
  • treating H. pylori infections with antibiotics

Some evidence suggests that certain foods may help protect against stomach cancer. Therefore, a person may consider including them in their diet. They include:

Doctors can treat stomach cancer more easily in the early stages, so the earlier a person receives a diagnosis, the better the outcome. Therefore, anyone experiencing stomach cancer symptoms should speak with a doctor as soon as possible.

Although many conditions can cause symptoms such as heartburn, indigestion, and stomach discomfort, it is best to see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis. They can rule out any potential causes and suggest treatments.

Although some research suggests a link between spicy food and an increased risk of stomach cancer, the evidence is mixed. Other factors can also contribute to the development of this cancer, including age, gender, smoking, and alcohol consumption.

Leading a healthy lifestyle and eating a balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and other protective foods may help reduce the risk of stomach cancer.

If someone experiences symptoms that could indicate stomach cancer, they should see a doctor as soon as possible.