Friday March 10, 2006 (0101 PST)
ISLAMABAD, March 10(Online): A new study by American Cancer Society (ACS) researchers finds that being overweight or obese raises a person’s risk of pancreatic cancer.
This is especially true for people who tend to gain weight in their mid-section, compared to those who gain it in their hips and thighs, or evenly all over their body.
The findings were published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention (Vol. 14, No. 2: 459-466).
Pancreatic cancer is expected to strike more than 32,000 Americans in 2005. It is difficult to detect and treat, and most people who get it die within a year of their diagnosis. Because the outlook is so poor once a person develops pancreatic cancer, it’s important to find ways to prevent it.
Excess weight has been linked to many types of cancer, but scientists aren’t sure how big an influence weight has on pancreatic cancer. They suspect it is a factor because weight affects insulin production and the chance of developing diabetes, and diabetes is a risk factor for pancreatic cancer.
But previous studies have had mixed results, with some finding that excess weight does raise the risk of pancreatic cancer and others finding it doesn’t. The same is true of exercise: Some studies have found that it can protect against pancreatic cancer, but others showed no effect. The new ACS study looked at both these factors.
Link Found for Weight, but Not Exercise Researchers, led by Alpa Patel, studied 145,627 men and women who were taking part in the ACS’s Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort, a large study of lifestyle, diet and cancer. Nearly all of the participants were between the ages of 50 and 74 when they enrolled in 1992.
They answered a detailed questionnaire about their lifestyle habits, including weight, diet, and exercise. They also described whether they tended to gain weight in their waist, hips and thighs, chest and shoulders, other parts of the body, or equally all over.
Using this information, the researchers calculated each person’s body mass index (BMI) and physical activity level and compared it to their risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
Overall, 242 people in the study developed pancreatic cancer. People who were obese had twice the risk of developing pancreatic cancer as people who were normal weight. People who gained their weight mainly in the waist or chest/shoulders had a 33% greater risk of developing pancreatic cancer than people who said they gained most of their weight in their hips and thighs or equally all over. Both these relationships were stronger in men than in women.
Exercise did not seem to lower the risk of pancreatic cancer, but the researchers think that’s because most people in the study didn’t do very much. It may take more vigorous exercise to influence pancreatic cancer, they wrote.
The study supports the idea that obesity is linked to pancreatic cancer, Patel and colleagues said. But more studies are needed to determine what effect exercise has on pancreatic cancer, they added.
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