Excess intake of processed meats, red meat and pork can enhance the risk of pancreatic cancer, according to a new study, published in the October 5 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Meat intake has been associated with risk of exocrine pancreatic cancer, but previous findings have been inconsistent. This association has been attributed to both the fat and cholesterol content of meats and to food preparation methods.
Researchers from the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI and University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA analyzed data from the prospective Multiethnic Cohort Study to investigate associations between intake of meat, other animal products, fat, and cholesterol and pancreatic cancer risk.
During 7 years of follow-up, 482 incident pancreatic cancers occurred in 190 545 cohort members. Dietary intake was assessed using a quantitative food frequency questionnaire. Associations for foods and nutrients relative to total energy intake were determined by Cox proportional hazards models stratified by gender and time on study and adjusted for age, smoking status, history of diabetes mellitus and familial pancreatic cancer, ethnicity, and energy intake.
The strongest association was found with processed meat; those with the highest intake of processed meats were at a 68 % increased risk of pancreatic cancer compared to those with ate the least amount of processed meats.
Intakes of pork and of total red meat were both associated with 50% increases in risk, comparing the highest with the lowest quintiles.
There were no associations of pancreatic cancer risk with intake of poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs, total fat, saturated fat, or cholesterol.
The intake of total and saturated fat from meat was associated with statistically significant increases in pancreatic cancer risk but that from dairy products was not.
The authors conclude that red and processed meat intakes were associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. Fat and saturated fat are not likely to contribute to the underlying carcinogenic mechanism because the findings for fat from meat and dairy products differed. The authors suggest that carcinogenic substances related to meat preparation methods might be responsible for the positive association.