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Obesity Shown To Increase Pancreatic Cancer Risk

Bariatric Surgery News & Research | Adelaide Bariatric Centre

18 Oct 2013 8:47 AM

animal study to demonstrate link between obesity and cancer

A new study has found the first direct link between obesity and pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal forms of cancer, with a five year survival rate of 3-5 per cent and the average length of survival after diagnosis being just four to six months. In Australia, it is the fifth most common cause of cancer death.

Like with most cancers, early diagnosis improves the prognosis. However, pancreatic cancer usually isn’t detected until the disease is at an advanced stage, as it doesn’t typically display early symptoms.

The study, conducted by researchers at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center (JCCC), discovered that mice fed a high-fat, high-calorie diet until they were obese developed abnormally high numbers of the pancreatic lesions known to be a precursor to pancreatic cancer.

Mice in the genetically identical control group, who were fed a normal diet, gained an average 7.2g over 14 months. In comparison, the mice fed the high-fat, high-calorie diet gained more than twice as much weight -  an average weight gain of 15.9 g.

Tests showed that the mice in the control group generally had normal pancreases with very few lesions, while the obese mice tended to have less healthy pancreases, with significantly more pancreatic lesions. They also had metabolic abnormalities and higher insulin levels.

"The development of these lesions in mice is very similar to what happens in humans,” said Dr Guido Eibl, who led the study.

“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."

This is the first animal study to demonstrate a direct, causal link between obesity and cancer of the pancreas.

Image Credit: ReneS