Obesity Increases Risk for Pancreatic Cancer?

While most people often think of excess weight as a risk factor for diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, or osteoarthritis, an accumulating body of evidence now points to obesity an important risk factor for cancers.

While previous studies have shown the importance of obesity as a risk factor for breast and colon cancers, a study by Arsian and colleagues from the Pancreatic Cancer Cohort Consortium (PanScan) published in the latest issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that obesity may also be an important risk factor for pancreatic cancer.

Using a nested case-control design that included 2170 cases and 2209 control subjects, the PanScan study found a positive 33% higher risk for pancreatic cancer in individuals with the highest compared to the lowest BMI quartile. This relationship was found both in men and women.

When the researchers looked at abdominal obesity, the risk for pancreatic cancer in women in the highest quartile of waist circumference was almost twice that of women in the lowest quartile.

These findings certainly provide strong support for a positive association between BMI and pancreatic cancer risk and suggest that centralized fat distribution may increase pancreatic cancer risk, especially in women.

Given the observation that one of the most impressive impacts of bariatric surgery is an almost 60% reduction in cancer mortality, prevention of weight gain or successful weight management may certainly go a long way in reducing the risk of dying of this horrible disease.

Edmonton, Alberta

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Arslan AA, Helzlsouer KJ, Kooperberg C, Shu XO, Steplowski E, Bueno-de-Mesquita HB, Fuchs CS, Gross MD, Jacobs EJ, Lacroix AZ, Petersen GM, Stolzenberg-Solomon RZ, Zheng W, Albanes D, Amundadottir L, Bamlet WR, Barricarte A, Bingham SA, Boeing H, Boutron-Ruault MC, Buring JE, Chanock SJ, Clipp S, Gaziano JM, Giovannucci EL, Hankinson SE, Hartge P, Hoover RN, Hunter DJ, Hutchinson A, Jacobs KB, Kraft P, Lynch SM, Manjer J, Manson JE, McTiernan A, McWilliams RR, Mendelsohn JB, Michaud DS, Palli D, Rohan TE, Slimani N, Thomas G, Tjønneland A, Tobias GS, Trichopoulos D, Virtamo J, Wolpin BM, Yu K, Zeleniuch-Jacquotte A, Patel AV, & Pancreatic Cancer Cohort Consortium (PanScan) (2010). Anthropometric measures, body mass index, and pancreatic cancer: a pooled analysis from the Pancreatic Cancer Cohort Consortium (PanScan). Archives of internal medicine, 170 (9), 791-802 PMID: 20458087