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Pancreatic cancer and obesity linked

June 24, 2009 |  1:00 pm

Scales Pancreatic cancer is now the fourth-leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, and the nation's growing girth among all age groups could be playing a role.

A study examined 841 patients with pancreatic cancer and 754 healthy people of similar age, race and gender. It found that people ages 14 to 39 who who were overweight (a body mass index of 25 to 29.9) or people ages 20 to 49 who were obese (a BMI of 30 or greater) had an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. In the second age group, being overweight or obese was also linked to an earlier onset of pancreatic cancer by two to six years.

The risk of developing the disease appeared to level off for those who gained excess weight in their 40s. And after age 50, disease risk and weight were not related. However, being overweight at an older age was found to be associated with a lower survival rate for people with the disease.

The median survival rate for people with pancreatic cancer is less than 10 months and the five-year survival rate is less than 5%. But, the authors of the study note, both of the major risk factors for the disease -- obesity and smoking -- can be addressed with lifestyle changes.

The study was performed at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and published today in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.

--Shari Roan

Photo credit: Richard De Aratanha / Los Angeles Times



 

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