Background: No population-based cohort studies have been undertaken to evaluate the incidence and prognosis of gastric cancer. The purpose of this investigation was to clarify the incidence and fatal prognosis of gastric cancer and to determine the factors that contribute to the prognosis in a general Japanese population in Hisayama using a prospective study design. Methods: From 1988 to 1998 a total of 2605 subjects aged 40 years or older with no history of gastrectomy or gastric cancer were followed-up prospectively after a health examination. The diagnosis of gastric cancer was based on clinical records or autopsy findings. Results: During the follow-up period. 76 subjects developed gastric cancer. The age-adjusted incidence of gastric cancer for men (4.9 per 1000 person-years) was 4-fold higher than that for women (1.2, P < 0.05). In men, the incidence of gastric cancer increased with advancing age, but this trend was not observed in women. The age- and sex-adjusted 5-year survival rate was significantly higher in cancers of the middle third of the stomach than in those of the upper third of the stomach. The survival rate was higher in cancers of well-differentiated adenocarcinoma than in those of the other histological types. There were no cases of cancer-related death among the early gastric cancers during the follow-up period. Conclusions: Our data suggest that men are at higher risk of gastric cancer than women in the general Japanese population. Clinical stage, histological type, and site of cancer in the stomach contribute to a fatal prognosis.
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