Wednesday, November 14, 2018 (HealthDay News) – Obesity in adolescence may increase the risk of developing deadly pancreatic cancer in adulthood, the researchers report.
The chances of this rare cancer can quadruple due to obesity, the Israeli research team found. In addition, the risk increases as weight increases, affecting even men in the high normal weight range.
"It has been known for some time that obesity may increase the risk of an individual developing pancreatic cancer, and [this is] a new important finding suggests that obesity and overweight in adolescence can also affect risk, "said Allison Rosenzweig, senior manager of the Action Network on Pancreatic Cancer.
But being overweight or obese does not lead to contracting the disease, said Rosenzweig, who had no role in the study.
"Because pancreatic cancer is a relatively rare disease that can affect about 55,000 Americans this year, even those at increased risk have a low probability of developing the disease," she said.
In addition, as this study looked at retrospective data, it is not possible to prove that overweight is a cause of pancreatic cancer, only that there is an association.
Pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, with a five-year survival rate below 10%, according to the cancer network.
For the new study, researchers led by Dr. Zohar Levi of Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva and Tel Aviv University collected data on more than 1 million Jewish men and 700,000 Jewish women in Israel. Participants underwent physical exams between the ages of 16 and 19, from 1967 to 2002.
Using the National Cancer Registry of Israel, the researchers identified cases of pancreatic cancer by 2012. Their follow-up revealed 551 new cases of pancreatic cancer.
Compared to normal weight, obesity was associated with an almost four-fold increased risk of cancer among men. Among women, the risk was slightly more than four times higher, the researchers found.
Overall, researchers attributed nearly 11% of pancreatic cases to overweight and obese adolescents.
The report was published online Nov. 12 in the journal Cancer.
Dr. Chanan Meydan of Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Center in Israel wrote an editorial accompanying the study. He said that weight gain in adolescence can increase inflammation, which damages the cells and may increase the risk of cancer.
"It would be interesting to find out if the inflammatory process in obesity is linked to the inflammatory process in the malignancy. Are they connected in any way?" said Meydan.
The mechanism behind the inflammation is "mostly a delicately balanced phenomenon with serious consequences when it is in imbalance," he said.
Learning more about how this "control framework" works may help scientists better understand the association between obesity and cancer, Meydan added.
The US National Cancer Institute has more information about pancreatic cancer.
SOURCES: Chanan Meydan, M.D., Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Center, Bnei Brak, Israel; Allison Rosenzweig, Ph.D., Senior Manager of Scientific Communications and Clinics at the Action Network on Pancreatic Cancer; November 12, 2018, Cancer, connected
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