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Fatty diet linked to high risk of pancreatic cancer

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A high fat diet -- particularly one which includes lots of meat and dairy products -- may increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer, according to a new study by the National Institutes of Health.

The study reported online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed that people who used a diet with meat and dairy fats were more likely to develop the cancer than those who did not.

Pancreatic cancer strikes more than 42,000 people and kills more than 35,000 in the United States each year, according to the American Cancer Society.

The study reported that men and women who ate large amounts of saturated fat were at a 36 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The association was strongest for saturated fat from animal food sources which were linked to 43 percent increase in the cancer risk.

The results were derived from an analysis of data from more than 500,000 men and women enrolled in the National Institutes of health-AARP Diet and Health Study. For the study, participants completed a food frequency questionnaire in 1995 and 1996.

During the average 6.3 years of follow up, 865 men and 472 women were diagnosed with exocrine pancreatic cancer.

NIH researchers found the participants who ate the highest amounts of total fats were 53 percent more likely to suffer pancreatic cancer while women who ate the highest amount were 23 percent more likely to be diagnosed with the cancer than those who consumed the lowest amounts of fat.

The overall risk of pancreatic cancer for women and men who consumed the highest amounts was increased by 23 percent.

Some experts believe that high intake of fat may cause a burden on the pancreas which needs to produce high levels of enzymes to help digest fats.

Early studies have found an association between sugary drinks and increased risk of pancreatic cancer. High levels of blood sugar also require the gland to excreate enzymes to help metabolize sugar.

The current study is not the only one that has found the association between animal fat and increased risk of panreatic cancer.

One study suggests that a diet high in red meat may raise the risk of developing pancreatic cancer, particularly in women. The study was published in the June, 2006, issue of the International Journal of Cancer.

For the study, Dr. Susanna C. Larsson of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and colleagues followed up with more than 61,000 women for their dietary habits, mainly their consumption of meat, fish, poultry, and eggs, and the risk of pancreatic cancer.

During the 17-year follow-up, 172 women were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Researchers found that long-term consumption of red meat was associated with an elevated risk of pancreatic cancer, while consumption of poultry was correlated with a reduced risk. But there was no association between consumption of processed meat, fish, or eggs and the risk of pancreatic cancer in that study.

Eating a lot of processed meats such as hot dogs, sausages, and luncheon meats may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer, according to another study presented on April 19 at the 96th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

In that study, researchers investigated the dietary information and pancreatic cancer death rate among 190,545 men and women of African-American, Japanese-American, Caucasian, Latino, and Native Hawaiian origin. The data originated from the Multiethnic Cohort Study in Hawaii and Los Angeles, which involved 190,545 subjects.

During a 7-year follow-up, 482 cases of pancreatic cancer were recorded.

Those who consumed the highest amounts of processed meats, including all types, are 67 percent more likely to acquire pancreatic cancer compared with those who used the lowest amounts. Those who consumed the highest amounts of pork and red meat increased the risk by 50 percent.

On the contrary, eating fewer calories and lots of fruit and vegetables was found to be associated with lower risk of pancreatic cancer.

An animal study presented at the 2008 Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, April 12-16, suggests eating fewer calories than needed may protect against pancreatic cancer.

Dr. Laura M. Lashinger, of the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center and colleagues, found calorie restriction by as much as 30 percent dramatically reduced risk of pancreatic lesions.

Another study published in the September, 2005, issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention reported that five or more servings of vegetables a day could cut the risk of pancreatic cancer by 50 percent.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California in San Francisco, involved 532 pancreatic cancer patients and more than 1,700 randomly selected people in the San Francisco area.


(by foodconsumer.org and edited by Sheilah Downey) 

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