Male smokers who consume diets rich in saturated fat may be at increased risk of pancreatic cancer, American researchers report. Their study findings suggest that dietary changes can help to lower the risk of pancreatic cancer, a disease in which fewer than 5% of patients live for 5 years after diagnosis. Until the tumour grows large, there are no symptoms, and the cancer usually spreads to the lymph nodes, liver or lungs before it can be detected.
Diet modification may particularly benefit smokers, who are at higher risk of the disease. In the study, researchers reviewed information on more than 27,000 male smokers aged 50 to 69 who were enrolled in a study in Finland. Men who developed pancreatic cancer had higher intakes of butter and saturated fat and lower intakes of carbohydrates and total calories, compared with men who did not develop pancreatic cancer.
Men who consumed the highest amounts of saturated fat were 60% more likely to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and men who consumed the greatest amount of butter were 40% more likely to be diagnosed the disease over the next 12 years.
Although the study did not investigate how saturated fat might increase the risk of pancreatic cancer among smokers, the authors point out that saturated fats are more likely to be stored in the body as fat than other nutrients, and are used less efficiently as energy.
Fat and saturated fat may also decrease insulin sensitivity, which is a risk factor for diabetes. Previous research has shown an association between pancreatic cancer and diabetes.
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