Background: Although salt intake is considered a probable risk factor for gastric cancer, relevant studies have provided heterogeneous results, and the magnitude of the association has not been accurately quantified.
Methods: To quantify gastric cancer risk in relation to dietary salt exposure according to Helicobacter pylori infection status and virulence, smoking, tumour site, and histological type, we evaluated 422 gastric cancer cases and 649 community controls. Salt exposure was estimated in the year before the onset of symptoms through: sodium intake (estimated by a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ)); main food items/groups contributing to dietary sodium intake; visual analogical scale for salt intake preference; use of table salt; and duration of refrigerator ownership.
Results: Comparing subjects with the highest with those with the lowest salt exposure (3rd vs 1st third), sodium intake (OR=2.01, 95% CI: 1.16-3.46), consumption of food items with high contribution to sodium intake (OR=2.54, 95% CI: 1.56-4.14) and salt intake evaluated by visual analogical scale (OR=1.83, 95% CI: 1.28-2.63) were associated with an increased gastric cancer risk. Subjects owning a refrigerator for >50 years had a lower risk for gastric cancer (OR=0.28, 95% CI: 0.14-0.57). These associations were observed regardless of H. pylori infection status and virulence, smoking, tumour site or histological type.
Conclusion: Our results support the view that salt intake is an important dietary risk factor for gastric cancer, and confirms the evidence of no differences in risk according to H. pylori infection and virulence, smoking, tumour site and histological type.