Eating a diet high in red and processed meats may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer by an alarming degree.
A new study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that people who ate high amounts of processed meats, such as luncheon meat and sausage, had a 68% higher risk of pancreatic cancer than those who ate far less of these items.
People who had substantial amounts of pork and red meat in their diet had a 50% higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer than their counterparts who had less of these foods in their diet.
The authors found no increased risk of pancreatic cancer linked to the consumption of poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs, total fat, or saturated fat. The also found no linkage to cholesterol levels.
Although pancreatic cancer is not one of the most common cancers (about 32,000 Americans were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year), it is one of the deadliest. The five-year survival rate is less than five percent.
Known risk factors for pancreatic cancer are smoking, family history of pancreatic cancer, and diabetes. It is more commonly found in males of advanced age and in Native Americans and African-Americans.
The study followed 190,545 individuals, 45% of whom were men. Twenty-five percent of the study group was Caucasian. All subjects completed a detailed dietary survey prior to the start of the study, and they were followed for a period of seven years.
Over the seven-year period, 482 individuals developed pancreatic cancer. The mean age of those who got cancer was 65 years, and 21.6% of them were smokers.
Since fat intake was not found to be linked to an increase in pancreatic cancer, the authors speculate that meat preparation techniques may be responsible for the increased risk.