Researchers for the first time have discovered a direct link between obesity and pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic cancer is cancer of the pancreas. The pancreas is a glandular organ in the digestive system and endocrine system that produces several important hormones including insulin, glucagon, somatostatin, and pancreatic polypeptide and that secretes pancreatic juice containing digestive enzymes. The survival rate for pancreatic cancer is less than 14 percent, usually around three to five percent after five years.
A link between obesity and pancreatic cancer had previously been posited but had never been confirmed. The inflammation and insulin resistance associated with obesity are thought to increase an obese person’s risk of developing deadly pancreatic cancer.
A new study published in the Cancer Prevention Journal is the first to show a direct causal link between obesity and pancreatic cancer risk in an animal model.
Researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA created a state-of-the-art mouse model that resembles important clinical features of human obesity such as weight gain and metabolic disturbances. The researchers fattened mice with high-calorie, high-fat diets to the point of obesity.
Mice fed normal diets had mostly normal pancreases.
However, when fed the high-calorie, high-fat diets, the mice PanIN lesions and had fewer overall healthy pancreases. PanIN lesions, or pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia lesions, are the most common precursor lesions on the pancreas before pancreatic cancer. In addition to the development of PanIN lesions, a common precursor to pancreatic cancer, the mice on the unhealthy diets also gained significantly more weight and had abnormalities of their metabolism,, increased insulin levels, and marked pancreatic tissue inflammation.
As Dr. Guido Eibl, a professor-in-residence in the department of surgery at David Geffen School of Medicine, explains:
“The development of these lesions in mice is very similar to what happens in humans. These lesions take a long time to develop into cancer, so there is enough time for cancer preventive strategies, such as changing to a lower fat, lower calorie diet, to have a positive effect.”
The results of the study directly link obesity and pancreatic cancer risk. High-fat, high-calorie diets that often lead to obesity increase a person’s risk of developing deadly pancreatic cancer. Switching to a lower-fat, lower-calorie diet may mitigate the negative effects of obesity on pancreatic cancer.