Obesity increases pancreatic cancer risk

Young adults who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of pancreatic cancer, and being obese at an older age is associated with a lower overall survival rate for patients with pancreatic cancer, revealed by researchers.

The new study published in the June 24 issue of JAMA.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death for both men and women in the United States. As the prevalence of overweight and obesity have rapidly increased during the last 2 decades, accumulating evidence has emerged that excess body weight is a risk factor for pancreatic cancer.

“However, to our knowledge, no study has explicitly reported the association between excess body weight across an individual’s life span and the risk of pancreatic cancer or identified at which ages the key predisposing weight change usually occurs,” the authors write.

Donghui Li, Ph.D., of the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, and colleagues conducted a study to determine the associations between body mass index (BMI) over a lifetime and pancreatic cancer risk, age at onset, and overall patient survival.

The study included 841 patients with pancreatic cancer and 754 healthy individuals matched by age, race, and sex. Height and body weight histories were collected by personal interview starting at ages 14 to 19 years and over 10-year intervals progressing to the year prior to recruitment in the study.

The researchers found that individuals who were overweight (a BMI of 25-29.9) from the ages of 14 to 39 years or obese (a BMI of 30 or greater) from the ages of 20 to 49 years had an associated increased risk of pancreatic cancer, independent of diabetes status. The association between average BMI (per 5-unit increase) and risk of pancreatic cancer was stronger in men than in women. The association was statistically significant for each age group from 14 to 69 years in men but only from ages 14 to 39 years in women. The estimated association of average BMI (per 5-unit increase) with cancer risk also was slightly stronger in ever smokers than in never smokers. It was estimated that 10.3 percent of never smokers and 21.3 percent of ever smokers had pancreatic cancer attributable to being overweight or obese at an early age prior to cancer diagnosis (i.e., from the ages of 14-59 years).

Overweight or obesity during early adulthood was associated with a greater risk of pancreatic cancer and a younger age of disease onset. Obesity at an older age was associated with a lower overall survival in patients with pancreatic cancer, researchers conclude.

Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, USA



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