-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, Oct. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Heavy smokers and drinkers
may develop pancreatic cancer at an earlier age than other people,
according to a new study.
The average age at which patients are diagnosed with pancreatic
cancer is 72, according to the American Cancer Society.
But this study of more than 800 pancreatic cancer patients found
that heavy smokers were diagnosed at about age 62 and heavy
drinkers at age 61 -- a decade earlier than the average age at
Heavy smokers were defined as those who smoked more than one
pack of cigarettes a day, and heavy drinkers were those who
averaged three drinks per day.
The study also found that beer drinkers were diagnosed with
pancreatic cancer at an earlier age than those who drank other
types of alcohol, such as wine or liquor. But when the researchers
took the amount of alcohol consumed into account, the type of
alcohol did not affect the age at diagnosis.
The good news was that the harmful effects of heavy smoking and
drinking can be reversed. Ten years after giving up their unhealthy
habits, former smokers and drinkers did not have an increased risk
of being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at an earlier age.
The study was published online Aug. 28 in the
American Journal of Gastroenterology.
The findings could help determine at what age screening for
pancreatic cancer should begin, once widespread screening is
"As screening programs are developed, an understanding of how personal features influence the age of presentation will be important to optimize the timing of those screenings," lead study author and gastroenterologist Dr. Michelle Anderson, assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Health System, said in a UMHS news release.
Although the study found associations between heavy drinking,
smoking and pancreatic cancer diagnosis at younger ages, it did not
prove cause-and-effect relationships.
The American Cancer Society has more about
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