Posted on Jun 26, 2009, 3 p.m.
By gary clark
A study has found a link between obesity as a young adult and an increased risk of pancreatic cancer, with obesity in middle age linked with poorer survival rates.
With an increasing number of people suffering from obesity and with pancreatic cancer now the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, evidence has been growing to suggest a link between excess body weight and the deadly disease. To determine what association, if any, exists, researcher Donghui Li, an associate professor in gastrointestinal medical oncology at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and his colleagues conducted a study involving 841 people with pancreatic cancer and 754 healthy people. Those individuals who were overweight between the ages of 14 and 39 or who suffered from obesity between the ages of 20 and 49 were shown to have an increased risk for pancreatic cancer. The association was stronger in men than in women. And add smoking to the mix, and the risk was even greater.
As Dr. Li notes, the increased risk was not insignificant. "In your 30s, overweight was associated with a 60 percent increased risk of pancreatic cancer and obesity was associated with a two- to three-fold higher risk of pancreatic cancer," he says. The researchers also found that the risk of cancer leveled off for people who were becoming overweight or obese at age 40, and the risk became non-significant for those whose excessive weight gain did not start until after age 50.
The study also found that compared to people of normal weight, those who were overweight or obese between the ages of 20 and 49 were found to develop pancreatic cancer two to six years earlier. As Li notes, "The median age of cancer diagnosis was 64 years for those with normal body-mass index (BMI), but was 61 years for overweight patients and 59 years for obese patients." Obesity was also found to be a factor in how soon cancer patients died, with median survival time dropping from 18 months in patients with normal body weight to 13 months for overweight or obese patients. "What's notable about this study is that higher BMI has implications throughout the course of pancreatic cancer -- from development to worsened survival," says Dr. Robert R. McWilliams of the Mayo Clinic. "Something associated with obesity apparently drives pancreatic cancer. As a scientific community, we need to understand the underlying mechanism. Hopefully, this can lead to future treatment strategies." The study was published in the June 24 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
News Release: Obesity while young boosts pancreatic cancer risk www.yahoo.com June 23, 2009