Encouragingly, the downward trend is set to continue, at least for the near future according to researchers, because the fall is seen in younger and middle aged people as well as the elderly.
The report, from an international team in Switzerland, Italy and Spain, investigated trends in age-standardised mortality between 1950 and 1999 in 25 European countries, the EU as whole, six selected central and eastern European countries and the Russian Federation.
There are major differences in stomach cancer rates across Europe. In the Russian Federation they are over five-hold higher than in Scandinavia or France, and, in general, rates are higher in central and eastern Europe, Portugal, Italy and Spain. So, stomach cancer does remain a major public health problem in several European areas and a health priority in the Russian Federation.
But, mortality rates are falling in every country. Between 1980 and 1999 across the EU the age-adjusted rates decreased from 18.6 per 100,000 to 9.8. In Eastern Europe the fall was from 27.9 to 16.1 and in the Russian Federation it was from 51.6 to 32.0 (in 1998).
Lead author Professor Fabio Levi, from the Institut Universitaire de mdecine sociale et prventive in Lausanne, Switzerland, said that if the fall continued as predicted there would be up to 15,000 fewer deaths from stomach cancer this decade.
"We are seeing a steady and persistent fall in rates across various major geographical areas of the continent and there is little systematic indication of it levelling off over the most recent years, indicating that the decrease is likely to continue in the near future. In fact, if anything, the downward trend has been even steeper over the most recent calendar period."