Smoking, heavy drinking linked to earlier onset of pancreatic cancer

October 1, 2012
Those who smoke and drink heavily may develop pancreatic cancer at an earlier age than those who don’t, according to a study led by a University of Michigan Health System gastroenterologist Michelle Anderson, M.D. Credit: University of Michigan Health System

Those who smoke and drink heavily may develop pancreatic cancer at an earlier age than those who don't, according to a study led by a University of Michigan Health System gastroenterologist.

In the study, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, heavy smokers with were diagnosed around age 62 and at age 61 – almost a decade earlier than the average age of 72.

Smoking is a strong risk factor for pancreatic cancer and alcohol has been shown to cause oxidative damage to the , which sets the stage for the inflammatory pathways that can lead to cancer.

The findings only indicate these habits can lead to developing pancreatic cancer earlier in life.

The study of 811 pancreatic cancer patients from the multicenter, international database Pancreatic Cancer Collaborative Registry does not prove the habits caused cancer.

The study does make a step toward understanding at what age screening for pancreatic cancer should begin – once widespread screening is available.

"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," says lead study author and Michelle Anderson, M.D., assistant professor of at the University of Michigan Health System. Detecting pancreatic cancer early is difficult and contributes to the poor . By the time pancreatic cancer is diagnosed, it is frequently at an advanced stage and has spread to other organs.

Currently there are no tests available to easily find it in people who do not have symptoms. In the study, were defined as those who had more than a pack per day, and heavy drinking was measured at more than 39 grams a day, or about three average drinks per day.

Beer drinkers presented with pancreatic cancer earlier than those who drank other types of alcohol, such as wine or hard liquor although when adjusted for the amount of alcohol consumed, the type of alcohol did not affect the age of presentation.

The good news is that the harmful effects of heavy drinking and smoking can be resolved . After 10 years, former smokers and drinkers who quit their habits faced no extra risk of earlier diagnosis.

The registry used for the study gathers information on patients with pancreatic cancer and those at high-risk for developing pancreatic cancer.

Patient data was collected from University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Neb.; University of Genoa, Italy; Creighton University School of Medicine, Omaha, Neb.; University of Pittsburgh Medical Center; NorthShore University Health System, Evanston, Ill.; University of Chicago, Chicago, Ill.; University of Alabama at Birmingham, Ala.; and the University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Explore further: Gene identified in increasing pancreatic cancer risk

More information: "Alcohol and Tobacco Lower the Age of Presentation in Sporadic Pancreatic Cancer in a Dose-Dependent Manner: A Multicenter Study," American Journal of Gastroenterology.

Related Stories

Gene identified in increasing pancreatic cancer risk

December 29, 2011
Mutations in the ATM gene may increase the hereditary risk for pancreatic cancer, according to data published in Cancer Discovery, the newest journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Recommended for you

Study shows how nerves drive prostate cancer

October 19, 2017
In a study in today's issue of Science, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, part of Montefiore Medicine, report that certain nerves sustain prostate cancer growth by triggering a switch that causes tumor vessels ...

Gene circuit switches on inside cancer cells, triggers immune attack

October 19, 2017
Researchers at MIT have developed a synthetic gene circuit that triggers the body's immune system to attack cancers when it detects signs of the disease.

One to 10 mutations are needed to drive cancer, scientists find

October 19, 2017
For the first time, scientists have provided unbiased estimates of the number of mutations needed for cancers to develop, in a study of more than 7,500 tumours across 29 cancer types. Researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger ...

Researchers target undruggable cancers

October 19, 2017
A new approach to targeting key cancer-linked proteins, thought to be 'undruggable," has been discovered through an alliance between industry and academia.

Suicide molecules kill any cancer cell

October 19, 2017
Small RNA molecules originally developed as a tool to study gene function trigger a mechanism hidden in every cell that forces the cell to commit suicide, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study, the first to identify molecules ...

Fundamental research enhances understanding of major cancer gene

October 19, 2017
New research represents a promising step towards better understanding of a key cancer gene. A long-running collaboration between researchers at the Babraham Institute, Cambridge and the AstraZeneca IMED Biotech Unit reveals ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.