Smokers and Drinkers Diagnosed With Cancer Earlier

Pancreatic cancer diagnosis seen at earlier ages in smokers and heavy drinkers

(RxWiki News) Pancreatic cancer is not a good one. Medical scientists don’t know what causes this cancer, with the exception of rare genetic links. And there’s no screening for the healthy general population. A recent study sheds light on risk factors.

People who smoke and drink heavily are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer at a younger age than people who don’t smoke or drink.

"Get help to quit smoking."

Researchers the University of Michigan examined the associations between the age of a pancreatic cancer diagnosis and smoking, alcohol consumption and the quantities and types of alcohol consumed.

Michelle A. Anderson, MD, in the Division of Gastroenterology at University of Michigan Health System, was listed as first author of the study.

Other studies have suggested that high fat diets, obesity, high consumption of carbonated soft drinks, chronic pancreatitis, diabetes, smoking and heavy drinking may all play a role in the development of pancreatic cancer.

Previous studies have shown no clear-cut relationship between pancreatic adenocarcinoma – the most common form of pancreatic cancer – and moderate drinking.

Researchers in this study used data from the Pancreatic Cancer Collaborative Registry to analyze other factors as well, including: gender, race, nation of origin, education, family history and diabetes status.

The analysis found:

  • Median age of pancreatic cancer diagnosis was 66.3 years.
  • Men were more likely than women to be smokers, heavy alcohol and beer consumers.
  • Smokers had the highest risk of younger pancreatic diagnosis.
  • The negative impact of smoking and drinking appears to disappear after 10 years.

This analysis concludes that smoking does indeed lead to earlier development of pancreatic cancer. Other research has suggested smoking may contribute to its onset.

Heavy drinking – more than 3 or 4 drinks a day – also seems to be linked to an earlier diagnosis of the disease. And as with smoking, other research has hinted that heavy drinking may be part of why pancreatic cancer gets started.

Because of the limitations of this study, including not distinguishing drinkers by their patterns of drinking – binge, regular, heavy – and having incomplete information on economic status and a person’s history of pancreatitis.

As a result, forum members do not think that the results of this study will have much impact on clinical practice, or measures designed to prevent pancreatic cancer.

This study was published in August 28 in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

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Review Date: 
October 4, 2012