By Margarita Nahapetyan
High intake of diets that are rich in fat from red meat and dairy products is linked to an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer, according to a new U.S. study.
Scientists at the National Cancer Institute in the United States surveyed more than half a million individuals - 308,736 men and 216,737 women - and asked them to provide precise details of their diet for the period of more than 6 years. All the respondents were enrolled in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study.
Each of the participants needed to fill out a 124-item food frequency questionnaire in 1995 and 1996, after what they all were followed to track a variety of health-related conditions, including pancreatic cancer. Over an average follow-up period of 6.3 years, 865 men and 472 women were diagnosed with exocrine pancreatic cancer. The investigators revealed that those in the study who reported eating most animal fat, had an increased risk of developing the disease. The study found that the relationship between fat consumption and cancer was strongest for saturated fat from animal food sources, which were associated with a 43 per cent increase in the risk of getting cancer.
Among the individuals who consumed the highest amounts of total fats, the chance of developing cancer was 53 per cent higher for male participants and 23 per cent higher for their female counterparts, when compared to participants whose intake of fat diets was the lowest. After combining the data for both men and women, the experts found that total fat consumption was associated with 23 per cent higher rates of pancreatic cancer, whereas high consumption of mono-saturated fats was linked to 22 per cent higher chance of developing the disease.
Researchers speculate that the relationship between fat consumption and pancreatic cancer could be linked to the so-called exocrine function of the pancreas, which excretes enzymes including those that aid in fat digestion. They also brought to attention that according to previous research, there is an association between saturated fat and insulin resistance and that diabetes and insulin resistance have been linked to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.
Writing in a paper, Dr. Rachael Z. Stolzenberg-Solomon, Ph.D., of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, and a leader of the institute's pancreatic cancer project, said that their study came to the conclusion that there are positive associations between pancreatic cancer and intakes of total, saturated, and mono-unsaturated fat, in particular from red meat and dairy food sources. "We did not observe any consistent association with poly-unsaturated or fat from plant food sources," she said. Altogether, the new findings suggest that there is a role for animal fat in pancreatic carcinogenesis.
Pancreatic cancer is almost always lethal, a factor that puts it at position number four in the top causes of mortality linked to cancer in the United States. Lifestyle, like diet, play a critical role in determining who is most likely to develop this very fatal form of the disease. Other risk factors contributing to pancreatic cancer include obesity, diabetes and smoking. According to the American Cancer Society, pancreatic cancer will strike more than 42,000 Americans in 2009 and kill more than 35,000.
The findings are published online June 26 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.