Link between Meat/Dairy Products and Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic cancer attacks the pancreas, the large organ attached to the bottom of the stomach. As symptoms of pancreatic cancer are vague and difficult to pinpoint, this particular cancer is very difficult to accurately diagnose. Generally, pancreatic cancer is only detected once the malignancy is so advanced that successful treatment is impossible. The disease usually spreads quickly and prognosis is grim – cancer of the pancreas has a low survival rate and typically causes death within six months of diagnosis.
Approximately 43,000 Americans are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year; more than 7,000 patients in the UK receive the diagnosis on an annual basis. The majority of these individuals sadly will succumb to this very aggressive form of cancer.
While little is known about pancreatic cancer, certain lifestyle choices do seem to impact the risk for developing this disease. Smoking is the single most significant contributing factor, along with excessive alcohol consumption, long term unmanaged diabetes and pancreatitis (chronic inflammation of the pancreas).
Research & Development
New research now suggests another significant and preventable cause of pancreatic cancer. Specifically, a recent study has discovered a definitive correlation between over-consumption of the fats commonly found in red meat and dairy products and the future development of pancreatic cancer.
There has been persistent disagreement among researchers about the likelihood of a relationship between pancreatic cancer and animal fats, but this new study seems to dispel many of those previous doubts purely based on its scope.
Dr. Rachael Z. Stolzenberg-Solomon and her colleagues in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the US’s National Cancer Institute in Maryland followed more than half a million people over the course of several years to evaluate their risk of developing pancreatic cancer. This study marked the first time a research group had undertaken such a considerable task with such a large patient sampling.
Dr. Stolzenberg-Solomon’s study participants completed a comprehensive food survey nearly fifteen years ago and then followed up with researchers every six years for new interviews and to track changes in lifestyle and eating habits.
In her report, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute earlier this year, Dr. Stolzenberg-Solomon concluded that those who admitted eating higher amounts of animal fats, such as those found in red meat and full-fat dairy products, had a greater chance of developing pancreatic cancer. In fact, nearly 1500 study subjects were diagnosed with the disease.
Overall, participants who reported high consumption of saturated fats from animal sources like red meat and dairy products were 36 percent more likely receive a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer as compared to those who consumed low amounts of these products.
Comparatively, men who ate the greatest amounts of total animal fats were at twice the risk of developing pancreatic cancer as men who ate the least amounts of fat. Women who consumed significant amounts of animal fats were nearly 25 percent more likely to have pancreatic cancer as compared to their peers who ate moderate to low amounts.
Other key study findings revealed troubling information about the possible link between saturated fats and pancreatic cancer.
45 of every 100,000 men and nearly 35 of every 100,000 women developed pancreatic cancer, a total of 865 men and 472 women over the life of the project.
Both men and women who consumed high amounts of saturated fats were considerably more at risk for pancreatic cancer than men and women who limited their fat intake. Total, saturated and monounsaturated fats all contributed to an increased likelihood of diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Indeed, the correlation between fat intake and instances of cancer were far more pronounced in study participants whose primary fat sources came from red meat and dairy products.
es of StudyWhile Dr. Stolzenberg-Solomon’s study makes a very strong case for the relationship between fat intake and pancreatic cancer, the research made no association between polyunsaturated fats or fats derived from plant sources. Some fruits and vegetables, like avocados, nuts and olives, do contain fats, but consumption of these kinds of fats is apparently unrelated to increased risk of pancreatic cancer.
As the most comprehensive study linking fat intake with carcinogenic risk, Dr. Stolzenberg-Solomon’s work represents noteworthy progress in our understanding of pancreatic cancer. However, some medical professionals and researchers suggest that while this study is beneficial in many ways it does not provide concrete proof that animal fats contribute to pancreatic cancer.
These detractors assert that still more research is needed to conclusively determine that fat intake is related to cancer. They suggest that perhaps some other lifestyle or dietary element could be common among people who consume large amounts of animal fats and that it is actually these unknown factors that contribute more substantially to the development of pancreatic cancer.
As researchers from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the Harvard School of Public Health, both in Boston, have said, Dr. Stolzenberg-Solomon’s study is a well-conducted and conscientious project that offers important insights into the understanding of pancreatic cancer, more work must be done before clinicians can be absolutely certain of the relationship between fat intake and cancer that her study suggests.
Steps towards Prevention
Even if it takes years for more research that can solidify Dr. Stolzenberg-Solomon’s claims, her study has presented compelling evidence for the possibility of taking steps to prevent cancer. Because many forms of cancer – and pancreatic cancer in particular – can be so hard to diagnose and treat, prevention is crucial.
Certainly, cessation of smoking is a major and beneficial change, as is decreasing consumption of alcoholic beverages. Of course, based upon this recent research, eliminating or restricting processed meats and foods with high fat content is clearly beneficial. Additionally, research just presented by Oxford’s British Journal of Cancer has also determined that avoiding red meat lowers one’s risk of developing various types of cancer including leukemia, bladder and stomach cancers by almost 50 percent. An effective diet aimed at cancer prevention should also include sizeable portions of fresh fruits and vegetables for their antioxidant and free-radical reduction effects.
Though the research may prove troublesome for those who favor a diet rich in red meat and dairy foods, the promise of prevention is monumental. Individuals can greatly reduce their risk factors for developing pancreatic cancer by limiting their consumption of animal fats.
- The Bountiful Benefits of Beet Juice
- Vegetarians Get Fewer Cancers
- The Benefits of Amino Acids
- Eating Healthily Is A Necessity – But Can It Be Taken Too Far?
- New Warnings about High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Why Fat-Free Diets Do Not Make Us Thin
- The Trouble with Soy
- Less Sugar – Longer Life?