MONDAY, March 14 (HealthDay News) -- Heavy drinkers have an
increased risk of dying from pancreatic cancer, new research
In fact, people who never smoke, a known risk factor for the
disease, but who have three or more drinks of hard liquor a day
face a 36 percent higher risk of dying from pancreatic cancer,
compared with nondrinkers, the study found.
"Overall, these findings add to the evidence that heavy alcohol intake is an independent risk factor for pancreatic cancer," said lead researcher Susan Gapstur, vice president of epidemiology for the American Cancer Society.
"Furthermore, they underscore the importance of the American Cancer Society guideline for cancer prevention recommending that if you drink alcoholic beverages, limit consumption to no more than one drink per day if you are a woman or two drinks per day if you are a man," she said.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancers. Often, by the
time symptoms appear the cancer is in an advanced stage and
spreading rapidly. To make matters worse, pancreatic cancer is also
hard to treat. The overall five-year survival rate from this cancer
is less than 5 percent.
Pancreatic cancer expert Dr. Alberto J. Montero, an assistant
professor of medicine at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center
at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine, said this
study confirms what people have suspected.
Survival chances with pancreatic cancer are not very good, he
added. "It hasn't really budged in the past 30 years. By contrast,
breast cancer five-year survival is now around 90 percent, the same
thing with colorectal cancer," he noted.
Despite improvements in diagnosis and treatments for other
cancers, "we haven't been able to budge the natural history of
pancreatic cancer," Montero said.
Montero noted that pancreatic cancer is often found only when it
is inoperable. In addition, pancreatic cancer is more resistant to
chemotherapy, he said.
However, pancreatic cancer is not common, so the absolute risk
of getting it is small, Montero added. "If you're a smoker, the
chances of getting lung cancer are much higher than getting
pancreatic cancer. In absolute terms, your risk of developing liver
cancer and cirrhosis [from drinking] are going to be higher than
pancreatic cancer," he said.
Smoking has long been cited as a risk factor for pancreatic
cancer and now it appears that drinking liquor is also a
significant player in development of the disease, the research
The report is published in the March 14 issue of the
Archives of Internal Medicine.
To come to these conclusions, the researchers collected data on
more than a million men and women who took part in the Cancer
Prevention Study II. Over 24 years of follow-up, 6,847 of these
people died from pancreatic cancer, the researchers noted.
Although a number of epidemiological studies have examined the
association between alcohol and risk of pancreatic cancer, most
were too small to tease out the effects of smoking from that of
alcohol since people who drink alcohol are also more like to smoke,
"In this large, prospective study, we were able to examine the association between alcohol intake and pancreatic cancer mortality in never-smokers, and across range of daily intake," she said.
Among people who had never smoked there was a 36 percent
increased risk of death from pancreatic cancer for those who drank
three or more servings of liquor a day compared with nondrinkers,
"This association appeared to be only with liquor intake, and not with beer or wine intake," she noted. "Reasons for the differences by beverage type are unclear, but might be due to a higher amount of alcohol actually consumed in a single drink of liquor compared to wine or beer."
For more on pancreatic cancer, visit the
U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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