Increased Risk of Pancreatic Cancer

There are factors which can increase the risk of developing genetic mutations that may potentially result in pancreatic cancer. It has now become clear that cancer of the pancreas runs in some families: relatives of patients with cancer of the pancreas have an increased risk for developing pancreatic cancer themselves. For those with an increased risk due to this factor or a history of pancreatic cancer, preventive actions should be taken.

As many as 10% of pancreatic cancers are caused by inherited defects in the BRCA2 gene. One particular defect in BRCA2 (a mutation called 6174 del T) is found in 1% of Ashkenazi Jews which may explain the higher rate of pancreatic cancer observed in Jews as compared to Catholics or Protestants. Testing is now available for BRCA2 mutations.

 


Signs, symptoms & indicators of Increased Risk of Pancreatic Cancer

Symptoms - Urinary  

Dark urine color




Conditions that suggest Increased Risk of Pancreatic Cancer

Organ Health  

Diabetes Type II

There have been a number of reports that have suggested diabetics have an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer. The reasons for this are not clear.



Tumors, Malignant  



Risk factors for Increased Risk of Pancreatic Cancer

Diet  

Excess Sugar Consumption

The high consumption of sweetened food and drink increases the risk of developing pancreatic cancer, according to a new study from Karolinska Institutet. A heavy intake of fizzy drinks, creamed fruit and sugar in coffee are three common ways of increasing the risk.

Pancreatic cancer is a very serious form of cancer that is possibly caused when the pancreas produces heightened levels of insulin as a consequence of upset glucose metabolism. A well-known way of increasing insulin production is to eat a lot of sugar. Scientists have now, for the first time, shown that the consumption of sweetened food and drink affects a person’s chances of developing pancreatic cancer.

The study began in 1997 when scientists ran a dietary survey of almost 80,000 healthy women and men. This group was subsequently monitored until June 2005. According to the cancer registry, 131 people from this group had developed cancer of the pancreas.

The researchers have now been able to show that the risk of developing pancreatic cancer is related to the amount of sugar in the diet. Most at risk were those who drank high quantities of fizzy or syrup based (squash) drinks. The group who said that they drank such products twice a day or more ran a 90% higher risk than those who never drank them. People who added sugar to food or drinks (e.g. coffee) at least five times a day ran a 70% greater risk than those who did not. People who ate creamed fruit (a product resembling runny jam) at least once a day also ran a higher risk, They developed the disease 50% more often than those who never ate creamed fruit.

“Despite the fact that the chances of developing pancreatic cancer are relatively small, it’s important to learn more about the risk factors behind the disease,” says Susanna Larsson, one of the researchers involved in the study.



Environment / Toxicity  

Cigarette Smoke Damage

Cigarette smoke contains a large number of carcinogens and therefore it should come as no surprise that cigarette smoking is one of the biggest risk factors for developing pancreatic cancer. For example, smoking during college has been associated with a 2 to 3-fold increased risk of pancreatic cancer.



Metabolic  

Problem Caused By Being Overweight

At least two studies have found that obesity significantly increases one’s risk of developing pancreatic cancer. [JAMA. 2001;286: pp.921-929]



Organ Health  

Pancreatitis

Long-term pancreatitis has been linked to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. The reason for this association is not clear, but it is strongest in patients with inherited chronic pancreatitis.



 

Consequences of Gallbladder Surgery

Although there appears to be a significant risk of pancreatic cancer following gallbladder removal, there is some conflicting evidence.



Personal Background  

African ethnicity

Studies in the United States have shown that pancreatic cancer is more common in the African-American population than it is in the white population. Some of this increased risk may be due to socioeconomic factors and higher levels of cigarette smoking.



Supplements and Medications  

Frequent/daily aspirin use

Women who take aspirin regularly may be at an increased risk of pancreatic cancer, a particularly deadly form of cancer. Boston researchers found that taking two or more aspirins a week for 20 years or more increased the women’s risk of pancreatic cancer by 58%, and women who took 14 tablets or more per week had an 86% greater risk. Women in the study who took between six and 13 aspirins a week had a 41% higher risk than women who did not use any, compared with an 11% greater risk among women who took one to three aspirins a week. Yahoo News October 27, 2003

However, in 2002, researchers from the University of Minnesota reported a follow up of more than 28,000 women in the Iowa Women’s Health Study. Contrary to the Boston researchers, they found a 43% lower rate of pancreatic cancer among aspirin users.

Therefore, it is way too early to recommend any changes in aspirin use by women.



Symptoms - Cancer  

History of pancreatic cancer



Symptoms - Food - Beverages  

(High) coffee consumption

Studies linking coffee consumption with cancer are conflicting and inconclusive at this point, but there is a suggestion of a higher incidence of cancers of the pancreas, ovaries, bladder, and kidneys in coffee drinkers.



Symptoms - Food - Intake  

Eating a high glycemic diet

There is evidence that a diet rich in high-glycemic load foods can boost the risk of pancreatic cancer.




Increased Risk of Pancreatic Cancer can lead to

Risks  



Recommendations for Increased Risk of Pancreatic Cancer

Botanical  

Green / Oolong / BlackTea (Camellia sinensis)

Regular and substantial consumption of green tea may provide protective effect against this type of cancer.



Diet  

Increased Fish Consumption

Study subjects who ate two or more servings of fish weekly had a much lower risk for esophageal, stomach, colon, rectum, and pancreatic cancers than those who avoided fish. In fact, the rates of these types of cancer were 30 to 50 percent lower among fish eaters. High fish consumption was also associated with lower risks for cancers of the larynx (30 percent lower risk), endometrial cancer (20 percent lower risk), and ovarian cancer (30 percent lower risk).



 

Vegetarian/Vegan Diet

Diets high in meats, fried foods and nitrosamines may increase the risk, while diets high in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer.



 

Caffeine/Coffee Avoidance

Studies linking coffee consumption with cancer are conflicting and inconclusive at this point, but there is a suggestion of a higher incidence of cancers of the pancreas, ovaries, bladder, and kidneys in coffee drinkers.



Drug  

LDN - Low Dose Naltrexone

This report describes the use of alpha-lipoic acid and LDN in a man with pancreatic cancer. It seems likely that such a program would go far in preventing this condition in someone with an elevated risk. [The Long-term Survival of a Patient With Pancreatic Cancer With Metastases to the Liver After Treatment With the Intravenous alpha-Lipoic Acid/Low – Dose Naltrexone Protocol, Burton M. Berkson, Daniel M. Rubin, and Arthur J. Berkson INTEGRATIVE CANCER THERAPIES 5(1); 2006] Disease progression recurred when stopping the program, and progression stopped again on resumption.



 

Conventional Drugs / Information

A common asthma drug reduced pancreatic cancer cell growth in laboratory experiments and animal tests, a new study reports.

A protein called S100P is found in excess amounts in some cancers and is important for pancreatic cancer cell growth and survival. This protein also activates a cell surface protein receptor called RAGE that plays a role in Alzheimer disease, diabetes, and cancer.

A drug called cromolyn, an allergy and asthma treatment, has been shown to bind to proteins similar to S100P. To test cromolyn’s effects on S100P in pancreatic cancer cells, Thiruvengadam Arumugam, Ph.D., Vijaya Ramachandran, Ph.D., and Craig D. Logsdon, Ph.D., of the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, conducted experiments with the drug in tissue cultures and in mice with implanted pancreatic cancer.

They found that cromolyn bound to S100P, halted the activation of RAGE, and slowed cancer cell growth and survival in cell lines. In mice, the drug slowed pancreatic tumor growth and improved the effectiveness of gemcitabine, a chemotherapy drug used to treat pancreatic cancer.

“Together, these data support the further investigation of cromolyn as a possible treatment for pancreatic cancer,” the authors write. [JNCI December 20, 2006]



Lab Tests/Rule-Outs  

Digestive Enzymes / (Trial)

Based on preliminary evidence that pancreatic enzymes kill pancreatic cancer cells, it would be prudent to ensure pancreatic sufficiency or use pancreatic enzymes supplementally when the risk of developing pancreatic cancer is increased.

Dr. Gonzales, M.D. reviewed and published the follow-up results of 11 patients who followed his treatment regime. They lived on average three times longer than expected. Gonzales said all the patients were in an advanced stage of the illness, and their conditions were inoperable. He further stated that “the survival rate at this stage is usually about 4-5 months, but the survival rate for the test patients was 17 1/2 months… I think the pancreatic enzymes do have a powerful anti-cancer effect. We do use diet (fruits and vegetables), we do use coffee enemas, we do use vitamins and minerals. I don’t think any of those things kill cancer cells. I do think pancreatic enzymes do.” [Nutrition and Cancer 33(2): pp.117-124]



 


Miscellaneous  


Nutrient  

Alpha Lipoic Acid

Please see the link between Increased Risk of Pancreatic Cancer and LDN. The dose of Alpha Lipoic Acid used with the patient to increase his survival time was 300 to 600 mg intravenously twice weekly and orally, ALA 300 mg twice daily.



Key

Weak or unproven link
Strong or generally accepted link
Proven definite or direct link
Very strongly or absolutely counter-indicative
May do some good
Likely to help
Highly recommended

Glossary

Cancer

Refers to the various types of malignant neoplasms that contain cells growing out of control and invading adjacent tissues, which may metastasize to distant tissues.

Diabetes Mellitus

A disease with increased blood glucose levels due to lack or ineffectiveness of insulin. Diabetes is found in two forms; insulin-dependent diabetes (juvenile-onset) and non-insulin-dependent (adult-onset). Symptoms include increased thirst; increased urination; weight loss in spite of increased appetite; fatigue; nausea; vomiting; frequent infections including bladder, vaginal, and skin; blurred vision; impotence in men; bad breath; cessation of menses; diminished skin fullness. Other symptoms include bleeding gums; ear noise/buzzing; diarrhea; depression; confusion.

Insulin

A hormone secreted by the pancreas in response to elevated blood glucose levels. Insulin stimulates the liver, muscles, and fat cells to remove glucose from the blood for use or storage.

Glucose

A sugar that is the simplest form of carbohydrate. It is commonly referred to as blood sugar. The body breaks down carbohydrates in foods into glucose, which serves as the primary fuel for the muscles and the brain.

Metabolism

The chemical processes of living cells in which energy is produced in order to replace and repair tissues and maintain a healthy body. Responsible for the production of energy, biosynthesis of important substances, and degradation of various compounds.

Pancreatitis

Inflammation of the pancreas. Symptoms begin as those of acute pancreatitis: a gradual or sudden severe pain in the center part of the upper abdomen goes through to the back, perhaps becoming worse when eating and building to a persistent pain; nausea and vomiting; fever; jaundice (yellowing of the skin); shock; weight loss; symptoms of diabetes mellitus. Chronic pancreatitis occurs when the symptoms of acute pancreatitis continue to recur.

Chronic

Usually Chronic illness: Illness extending over a long period of time.

Gallbladder

A small, digestive organ positioned under the liver, which concentrates and stores bile. Problems with the gallbladder often lead to "gallbladder attacks", which usually occur after a fatty meal and at night. The following are the most common symptoms: steady, severe pain in the middle-upper abdomen or below the ribs on the right; pain in the back between the shoulder blades; pain under the right shoulder; nausea; vomiting; fever; chills; jaundice; abdominal bloating; intolerance of fatty foods; belching or gas; indigestion.

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