Obesity and pancreatic cancer

June 23, 2009 9:46:27 PM PDT
Researchers have reported a link between obesity early in life and pancreatic cancer. Cancer of the pancreas is difficult to diagnose, which is something that makes it particularly lethal.

The report, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, says this is another important reason for maintaining a healthy weight beginning at a young age.

When Roger Giles was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he weighed 270 pounds. But as a teen, he weighed nearly 350 pounds.

"Living in southern Louisiana, it's high fat and fried foods," he said.

Now down to 185 pounds from his cancer treatments, Roger's former obesity may in fact have played a role in his illness.

"Increasing evidence suggests that there is association between being overweight and obesity with the risk of pancreatic cancer," said Dr. Donghui Li, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

It is estimated that nearly 27 percent of all cases of this highly lethal cancer are due in part to excess weight.

Building on this association, Dr. Li and her colleagues wanted to see if the age at which someone became overweight or obese had any impact.

The researchers gathered information from more than 800 patients at the cancer center and compared them with 754 healthy people.

Their conclusions?

Being overweight or obese as a teen or younger adult significantly increased a person's risk of cancer later in life. Also, being overweight or obese a year prior to diagnosis decreased a patient's survival time.

"Weight control at early age, at young adulthood, is most important to reduce the risk of cancer," Dr. Li said.

Looking back, Roger says he would change his past habits if he could.

"It's a terrible price to pay for being overweight," he said.

Study authors say further research into what happens internally when individuals are overweight and how that might put them at higher risk for diseases is critical.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King


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