~ Is Pancreatic Cancer Preventable?

Cancer of the pancreas is one of the deadliest forms of cancer, with less than five percent of those diagnosed surviving beyond five years. The disease is aggressive and difficult to treat because of its inaccessible location and its closeness to other organs. The August 18 2001 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association published an article with an accompanying editorial on the growing evidence that pancreatic cancer may be a preventable disease for many individuals. The researchers examined data from 46,648 men who participated in the Health Professionals Follow Up Study begun in 1986, and 117,041 women who were participants in the Nurses' Health Study, initiated in 1976. Subjects completed a questionnaire concerning their health habits at the onset of the study and every two years for the remainder of the ten to twenty year follow up. Deaths were reported by family members.

During follow up there were 350 diagnoses of pancreatic cancer. The data showed a positive correlation between body mass index and the risk of cancer of the pancreas. Individuals body mass index of greater than 30 kilograms per square meter had greater pancreatic cancer risk than those with a body mass index of 25 kilograms per square meter. A positive association was also observed between height and pancreatic cancer diagnosis. Moderate exercise, consisting of approximately one and one half hours of walking per week, was associated with a 50% reduction in pancreatic cancer risk in both men and women. The inverse association between exercise and pancreatic risk was more pronounced in those who were overweight.

The researchers explained these results by noting that a high body mass index indicative of being overweight or obese is associated with an increased risk of hyperinsulinemia and diabetes. Elevated insulin levels have been shown to increase local blood flow and cell divison within the pancreas. Excessive insulin may also cause increased exposure to free insulin-like growth factor 1, shown to promote growth in human pancreatic cancer cell lines. Exercise, by improving glucose tolerance and insulin clearance rates, can reverse some of this risk. An alternative explanation for the link between obesity and pancreatic cancer rests on the fact that the increased formation of DNA mutations found in pancreatic cancer patients are also found in individuals who have a higher body mass index, due to increased lipid peroxidation.

As cigarette smoking has heretofore been the only well established risk factor for this deadly disease, these findings are important . Although height is an uncontrollable risk factor, improving exercise levels and maintaining a healthy weight are measures we can all take to help prevent this and other lethal diseases.

About Pancreatic Cancer

A review of epidemiological evidence on the relationship between nutrition and pancreatic cancer found that, overall, fairly consistent patterns of positive associations with the intake of meat, carbohydrates, and dietary cholesterol have been observed. Consistent inverse relationships with fruit and vegetable intakes and, in particular, with fiber and vitamin C, have also been noted. (Ghadirian, Thouez et al. 1991; Ji, Chow et al. 1995; Howe and Burch 1996)

An article translated from the Japanese journal Gan No Rinsho compared 71 patients with pancreatic cancer to 142 community-based controls. They found significantly decreased risks were associated with consumption of raw vegetables and green tea. The risk increased significantly with consumption of the fat of meat, boiled fish, coffee, black tea and alcoholic beverages. (Goto, Masuoka et al. 1990)

An article published in the American journal Epidemiology described a cohort study of 27,101 healthy male smokers aged 50 to 69 years. 157 of them developed pancreatic cancer during the 13 years of follow-up from 1985 to 1997. The adjusted hazards ratio comparing the highest with the lowest quintile of dietary folate intake was 0.52 (95% confidence interval: 0.31, 0.87; p-trend = 0.05). Dietary methionine, alcohol intake, and smoking history did not modify this relation.

Consistent with prior studies, this study shows that cigarette smoking was associated with an increased risk. The authors conclude that these results support the hypothesis that dietary folate intake is inversely associated with the risk of pancreatic cancer and confirm the risk associated with greater cigarette smoking. (Stolzenberg-Solomon, Pietinen et al. 2001)

A basic approach to pancreas health might include: A high-quality multiple that includes antioxidants, selenium, beta-carotene, and vitamins E and D (such as Life Extension Mix - and LE One-Per-Day and Two-Per Day)

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