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PANCREATIC CANCER RISK, SODAS & JUICE
Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest of all types of cancer. Nearly 45,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer were diagnosed in 2009 in the United States, and more than 35,000 deaths due to this disease occurred during the same year. At the time of diagnosis, the vast majority of patients with this terrible disease are already incurable, and overall, 5-year survival rates remain a dismal 5 percent at this time. Even among the small minority of patients who are diagnosed with pancreas cancer at a relatively early stage, when the tumor is still confined to the pancreas, the 5-year survival rate is only in the 15 to 20 percent range.
The only possible hope for pancreatic cancer cure is very radical surgery, which is often followed by chemotherapy and radiation therapy. For most patients with pancreatic cancer, however, surgery is not even an option due to the advanced stage of their cancer at the time of diagnosis. Therefore, efforts to prevent pancreas cancer are critically important in decreasing the death rate from this aggressive and treatment-resistant type of cancer.
There are several known risk factors for pancreatic cancer. These include smoking, obesity, diabetes, chronic pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), and chronic liver disease. Because of the known links between pancreatic cancer, diabetes and obesity, there is concern that regularly consuming foods that significantly elevate the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood may also increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
A new large-scale prospective public health study, just published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, adds further evidence that the regular consumption of sugar-rich foods may indeed increase the risk of developing this deadly type of cancer. In this study, nearly 61,000 patient volunteers within the Singapore Chinese Health Study were followed for up to 14 years by researchers. All of these volunteers were extensively surveyed regarding their consumption of juices, sugary sodas (“soft drinks”), and other dietary items. Additionally, other lifestyle factors and environmental exposures linked to various types of cancer were assessed within this very large group of patients.
Within 14 years of the beginning of this very large epidemiological study, 140 new cases of pancreatic cancer were diagnosed within this cohort of patient volunteers. When the researchers analyzed all of their data, they discovered that the consumption of 2 or more sodas per week was associated with nearly twice the risk of developing pancreatic cancer when compared to not drinking any sodas at all (fortunately, there appeared to be no link between juice intake and pancreatic cancer risk).
The findings of this study add further evidence to previous similar studies regarding the intake of so-called “high glycemic index” foods and pancreatic cancer risk. As these same sugar-rich foods also directly contribute to the development of both diabetes and obesity, it is not surprising that scientists have begun to identify common biochemical pathways that link excessive calorie intake from sugar-rich foods with all three of these life-threatening diseases.
I will be discussing the known risk factors (and evidence-based prevention strategies) for pancreatic cancer, and for many other cancers, in much greater detail in my new book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” which is due to be published in the spring of this year. Meanwhile, if you currently drink sodas containing sucrose or fructose on a regular basis, you might want to seriously consider eliminating these soft drinks from your diet altogether.
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Disclaimer: As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity
Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, a professor of surgery, a cancer researcher, an oncology consultant, and a widely published author
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