The number of people dying from stomach cancer in the UK has fallen to a 40-year low, according to Cancer Research UK.

Records show that around 14,100 died from the disease in 1971. However for 2008, comparative figures showed a drop of 63% to fewer than 5,200 stomach cancer deaths. This means a ratio of 22.3 deaths per 100,000 people in 1971 and 5.5 per 100,000 for 2008.

According to Cancer Research UK’s Lesley Walker, the new figures “are fantastic news, showing fewer people are now dying from stomach cancer”.

She added: “But with more than 5,000 deaths from the disease every year, more work needs to be done to raise awareness of how to reduce the risk of stomach cancer and improve the outcome for patients.”

The charity said improved living conditions over the past 40 years have helped reduce the number of diagnoses of the disease. The common bacteria helicobacter pylori, as well as smoking and poor diet, are among the main factors that cause stomach cancer. Less overcrowding in homes could also help explain the reduction in the number of people being infected with the bacteria.

Cancer Research UK’s Peter Johnson, the charity’s chief clinician, said: “The falling number of people developing stomach cancer is further evidence of the important positive effects that improved living conditions and stopping smoking can have.”

Out of all cancer deaths in the UK, stomach cancer accounts for 3% and is the seventh most common cause.