Sept 19 People who smoke or drink heavily may
develop pancreatic cancer at an earlier age than those who avoid
those habits, according to a U.S. study, but quitting both
appears to help.
It's long been known that smoking is a risk factor for
developing pancreatic cancer, a disease that is rarely caught
early and has a grim prognosis. Only about five of every 100
people diagnosed with the cancer remain alive five years later.
The evidence on heavy drinking has been more mixed, but some
studies have suggested it's also a risk factor. The new results,
which appeared in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, show
the disease may strike smokers and drinkers earlier in life.
"If you do have these habits, and you're going to develop
pancreatic cancer, the age of presentation may be younger," said
lead researcher Michelle Anderson, at the University of Michigan
Health System in Ann Arbor.
Her team also found that the effect disappeared for former
smokers and drinkers if they had quit 10 years or more before
On average, the risk of developing pancreatic cancer is
about one in 71, and the average age at diagnosis is 72,
according to the American Cancer Society.
But in this study, current smokers and heavy drinkers were
diagnosed a decade earlier than that.
The findings are based on 811 patients in a pancreatic
Those who were current smokers were typically diagnosed at
around age 62, versus age 70 among non-smokers. Heavy drinkers,
meanwhile, were typically diagnosed at age 61, almost a decade
earlier than non-drinkers.
The findings do not prove that smoking or drinking led to
the earlier cancers, but Anderson's team did account for a
number of other factors, such as body weight and family history
of pancreatic cancer. Smoking and heavy drinking were still
linked to earlier diagnoses.
(Reporting from New York by Amy Norton at Reuters Health;
editing by Elaine Lies)