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Bread and cereals linked to stomach cancer risk

Kimberly Gillan
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Bread and cereals linked to stomach cancer risk

We hardly know which way to turn these days with contradictory studies about what is and what isn't good for you. But the most recent research suggests that lowering daily salt intake could significantly reduce stomach cancer risk.

Too much salt, as found in many breads and cereals, is known to increase blood pressure and increase the chances of heart disease and strokes, but it can also contribute to stomach cancer, according to research from the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).

As many as one in seven stomach cancers in the UK would be prevented if people limited their salt intake to six grams a day, according to a BBC report.

And with Australian salt intake at a similar level to the UK's, we all need to heed the warning.

There are nearly 1900 cases of stomach cancer diagnosed in Australia each year, affecting almost twice as many men as women.

According to the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health (AWASH), a high salt intake strips the stomach lining, making us susceptible to infection from a type of bacteria that can lead to pre-cancerous changes in the stomach lining.

In Australia, men eat an average of 10 grams of salt per day and women seven grams. About 75 percent of our salt intake comes from processed foods.

AWASH recommends we limit intake to six grams per day.

Kathy Chapman, director of cancer prevention at Cancer Council NSW, told ninemsn that people often mistake stomach cancer symptoms, which include heartburn, indigestion or stomach pain, for other conditions.

"It has a poor prognosis because often people put it down to other things," Chapman said.

The WCRF is calling for a "traffic light" system for food labeling, where red would signify the most unhealthy foods, amber the middle choices and green the healthiest options.

Chapman believes this could be an effective way to help people make healthier food choices.

"The challenge is that people think about only what they are adding at the table or what they might be adding in cooking, but breakfast cereals and bread are some of the biggest contributors of salt to our diets," she said.

"Traffic lights could be a way of highlighting foods that have high amounts of fat, sugar or salt — those key nutrients we need to be aware of," she said.

While reducing salt intake is a good idea, cigarette smoking remains the biggest cause of stomach cancer.

"The most important risk factor for stomach cancer is still cigarette smoking," Chapman said.

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