Can Aspirin Reduce Pancreatic Cancer Risk?

Aspirin reducing pancreatic cancer risk

Aspirin reducing pancreatic cancer risk

Researchers continue to look for links between aspirin and cancer after a series of recent research projects have found positive outcomes from aspirin consumption. We already know that aspirin consumption can help prevent certain types of cancer and aspirin may also be of use in the treatment of colon cancer. This time research has found that low doses of aspirin may reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer.

The research was published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention and was title “Case-Control Study of Aspirin Use and Risk of Pancreatic Cancer”.

While pancreatic cancer is one of the less common forms of cancer, it is extremely deadly, with more than 90% of patients dying within the first 5 years of diagnosis. The most common form of pancreatic cancer manifests in the parts of the organ that produce enzymes. Pancreatic cancer can also affect parts of the pancreas that disrupt it’s ability to function correctly.

The study looked at 360 patients with pancreatic cancer and nearly 700 who did not have the disease. Researchers looked at aspirin consumption among the sample group then used that data to look for correlations with pancreatic cancer.

Researchers considered doses in the 75 to 325 milligram range “low dose”. People interested in preventing heart disease usually take aspirin doses in that range. Researchers found that people who were taking low doses of aspirin had a 39% lower risk of having pancreatic cancer. For people who had been taking aspirin for a long time (10 years or more), the pancreatic risk was a massive 60 percent lower.

While researchers believe there is a link between the drug and lower risk of cancer, they are not sure how the link works just yet. We do know it reduces inflammation within the human body, so that may be playing a role in lowering pancreatic cancer risk.

Before you run off to stock up on aspirin, it is important to note that taking aspirin carries another set of risks. Those risks can include stomach ulcers and bleeding in the stomach or brain.

The American Cancer Society does not endorse the use of aspirin as a cancer preventative. However there is a growing body of research that points towards a link between cancer prevention and aspirin. This research may eventualy lead to new medicines which act like aspirin but don’t have the disadvantages of the drug.

Pancreatic Cancer Rate Continues to Rise

Pancreatic Cancer Increasing

Pancreatic Cancer Increasing

According to new research published in the American Association for Cancer Research journal pancreatic cancer will continue to rise in the coming decades. The report suggests by 2030 the top cancer killers will be lung cancer, pancreas cancer and liver cancer.

Currently the most dangerous cancer is lung cancer, with breast cancer holding the second spot for women and prostate cancer holding the second spot for men. Colorectal cancer comes in third currently.

The research paper looked at current cases of each form of cancer and the death rates for each form of cancer. Then it looked at demographic changes in the United States to determine which cancers will be more prevalent and dangerous in the future.

Thanks to improved cancer screening and treatment options, the overall cancer rate has been decreasing in recent decades. While some forms of cancer like breast, colon and prostate are expected to continue declining, the researchers suggest bladder, liver, pancreatic and leukaemia cancers will rise.

According to Dr. Otis Brawley, the chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, pancreatic cancer has been rising over the last 15 years as most other forms of cancer decline. Doctors in the United Kingdom have been seeing similar results as pancreatic cancer rises.

Dr. Otis Brawley suggests: “Many Americans are not aware that the combination of obesity, high-caloric intake and lack of physical activity is the second-leading cause of cancer in the U.S.”. Brawley says that 12 forms of cancer are linked to obesity and that is a huge problem for the United States more so than other parts of the world like Europe.

Because the United States has so many baby boomers and so many are overweight, these cancers are going to increase fairly quickly. Researchers suggest that the total number of cancer cases will reach 2.1 million in 2030, up from 1.5 million in 2010. Additionally because so many people are living longer that also means cancer risk is greater for these forms of cancer.

The shift in prevalence of these forms of cancer may mean governments, charities and research bodies may need to shift their focus. Currently breast, prostate, lung and colorectal cancers receive the most funding because they are the most common forms of cancer. They will still be the most common forms of cancer, but breast, prostate and colorectal will be killing less than pancreatic and liver cancer.

That means in the coming years various bodies will have to shift their focus. From the top 4 most common cancers, it is expected that by 2030 colorectal will fall behind thyroid, melanoma and uterine cancers in terms of the total number of cases.

Thankfully an increased emphasis on early screening has helped reduce the death rate from colorectal cancers also. While the increase in thyroid cancer is alarming, it is typically not a very dangerous form of cancer. Pancreatic cancer on the other hand only has a 6% survival rate 5 years after diagnosis. Pancreatic cancer can also be difficult to diagnose because of the surrounding tissue in the body. By the time most pancreatic cancers are diagnosed they are inoperable, so it is one area of research that drastically needs a funding increase.

Pancreatic Cancer on the Rise in the UK

Pancreatic Cancer on the Rise

Pancreatic Cancer on the Rise

The number of people presenting with pancreatic cancer is on the rise in the UK according to new research, and many patients are being forced to seek treatment overseas. Pancreatic Cancer is the 5th most deadly cancer, so the increase is of great concern to physicians and researchers. If the growth continues, some researchers suggest that it may overtake breast cancer by 2030.

Many patients have begun seeking tests and treatment in other countries due to a delay in diagnosis in England, where patients are sometimes only informed of the cancer when it has reached an advanced stage. Part if this may be due to hospitals in countries like Germany being less risk adverse, so able to perform surgery for pancreatic cancer at an earlier stage. In some other European countries patients can also have their insurer pay for surgery at an earlier stage, at a stage where diagnosis is not confirmed in English hospitals.

The condition kills about 8000 people every year in England, and experts are calling for an improvement in the speed of diagnosis and willingness to perform surgery for the condition at an early stage. Unlike many other cancers, the survival rates for Pancreatic cancer have not improved in the last few decades, and despite 20% of patients potentially benefiting from surgery, only 10% are being operated on.

In England, most patients see their GP between 4 and 6 times before they are referred to a hospital for more detailed examination and diagnosis. In many other EU countries, patients only need to see their GP 3-4 times before they are sent to the hospital for more conclusive tests. In England the condition is more likely to be misdiagnosed as chronic back pain or ulcers.

One way patients can eliminate the risk of pancreatic cancer at an earlier stage is to request a CT scan early on. However depending on the insurance of the patient there may be additional costs involved. An early CT scan can spot lesions on the pancreas, an early sign of pancreatic cancer.

Unfortunately, even with surgery the prognosis is not good for this kind of cancer, with only 4% of patients surviving past 5 years after surgery. One piece of good news is that there are more specialist pancreatic surgeons now, who deal with the required surgeries on a regular basis, improving survival rates gradually.

Researchers have also stated that there needs to be an improvement in the kinds of drugs made available for pancreatic cancer. While there is a great deal of research into breast cancer, pancreatic cancer has not seen as much progress.

Vitamin D and Cancer

Vitamin D & Cancer Prevention

Vitamin D & Cancer Prevention

Vitamin D is actually a number of fat-soluble secosteroids including Cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) and Ergocalciferol (vitamin D2). It is an interesting vitamin because the human body can either digest it via food or it can be obtained via exposure to the sun as the body synthesizes it. In that sense it’s not a dietary vitamin in the strict sense as it can come from the human bodies exposure to sunlight.

Vitamin D is essential for the development, growth and repair of human bones, aids in the absorption of calcium and helps the immune system function. Vitamin D also plays a role in improving muscle strength and reducing inflammation.

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a number of diseases including rickets (childhood osteomalacia), so in the developed world it is added to a number of food items like cow’s milk to avoid those illnesses. A lack of vitamin D can also play a role in the development of Osteoporosis. People with unusual diets and those who do not obtain enough sunlight are at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Between the ages 1-50, 5 μg (=200 IU) of vitamin D is recommended. After 50 most specialists recommend between 10 μg (=400 IU) and 15 μg (=600 IU) of vitamin D.

Vitamin D Studies

Recent studies have suggested that high levels of vitamin D may actually reduce the risk of colorectal cancer and studies are looking at further possible cancer risk reduction for prostate cancer, breast cancer and pancreatic cancers. This post will take a closer look at the accumulated evidence for vitamin D playing a role in cancer prevention.

Many scientific studies have been performed which look at vitamin D specifically. In early tests, scientists looked at the geographic correlation studies to see if people in more sunny areas of the planet (higher vitamin D intake) had lower risk of cancers. People living in the southern latitudes were found to have a lower incidence of certain cancers than people in the less sunny northern latitudes. From these early studies, scientists suggested that vitamin D played some role in cancer prevention.

In laboratory studies, vitamin D was used on cancer cells and found to have an impact on the growth of the cancer cells and in some cases even killed them. Laboratory studies using cultures are quite often vastly different from the how vitamins operate within the human body however.

Clinical human trials have determined that vitamin D high intake may reduce the risk of cancer. One trial involving 1250 older women who took a combination of calcium tablets and vitamin D tablets for 4 years saw a 60% lower incidence of cancer compared to the placebo taking group. However in that study, a vitamin D only group (without calcium) was not used. The study itself was designed to look at bone health so the cancer findings were supplementary.

Observational studies have been undertaken to look at vitamin D and it’s cancer prevention abilities specifically. The studies haven’t been conclusive so far, largely due to the difficulty of determining how much the patients diet impacts their chances of getting cancer. Quite often the data which is given by patients to researchers is also inaccurate, with their determination of their dietary intake being way off. At this stage many of the studies suggest their is possibly a link between higher vitamin D consumption and reduced cancer risk.

There is also a very close relationship between vitamin D and calcium in the body, so it is somewhat difficult to study just the effects of vitamin D when varying levels of calcium intake are involved in the mix. New randomized trials which look at vitamin D specifically are required.

Vitamin D and Colorectal Cancer

The data in this area is somewhat inconsistent, but findings indicate that there is some role for vitamin D in the prevention of colorectal cancer.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Prevention study which featured 120’000 men and women found that men who took 13 μg (525 IU) or more vitamin D per day in their diet had a lower risk of colorectal cancer. However, interestingly this reduced risk was not shown in women.

In a meta-study looking at 10 cohort studies, it was found that people who had very high vitamin D intakes had a slightly lower risk of colorectal cancer than those on the lowest intakes of vitamin D. However the risk was reduced by such a small amount it could have been a statistical anomaly.

In the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a look at over 16’000 participants concluded that those with higher vitamin D blood levels (≥80 nmol/L) had a 72 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer death compared to those with a very low level of vitamin D in their blood.

Of the types of cancer, colorectal cancer prevention is the one most likely linked with high vitamin D intake.

Vitamin D and Breast Cancer

There have been conflicting results in epidemiological studies looking at the link between breast cancer risk reduction and vitamin D. Some studies find a link in risk reduction, but others find no such link. A meta-study involving six other studies saw no association between vitamin D intake and breast cancer risk reduction. That being said, the studies involved did not have very high vitamin D intakes required, and when the study only looked at the very high intakes (>10μg) compared to the very low (<1.25μg) there was a reduced risk in breast cancer found.In another large study which involved many thousands of women taking calcium and vitamin D supplements, there was no reduced risk of invasive breast cancer found.

Vitamin D and Prostate Cancer Risk

Geographic correlation studies (comparing people in sunny locations to less sunny), have found a link between vitamin D and reduced prostate cancer risk. However epidemiological studies have found no such link.

In a large study that looked at the incidence of prostate cancer in men a number of years after their blood was tested for vitamin D levels, high vitamin D blood levels did not have a link to reduced prostate cancer risk. If anything, there was a link between increased vitamin D intake and an increased risk of the aggressive prostate cancer.

Vitamin D and Pancreas Cancer Risk

There is some debate about the role of vitamin D in reducing pancreas cancer risk with some vastly different results. One study involving 120’000 men and women found that participants with higher intakes of vitamin D had a progressively lower risk of pancreas cancer compared to the lower intake participants. However, this study used questionnaires which involved patients estimating their diet and there vitamin D levels.

In a PLCO study, no link was found between vitamin D level and reduced pancreatic cancer risk.

Should you take vitamin D?

Vitamin D is essential for the functioning of the human body. If you do not get much sunlight exposure, and/or you are over the age of 50, vitamin D supplements might be a good idea just for maintaining good health. To identify any vitamin D deficiency, have a blood test done by your doctor.

As to whether vitamin D reduces the risk of cancer, there is a great deal of data for and against it. The strongest evidence is for colorectal cancer prevention. However if you are concerned about prostate cancer, taking high levels of vitamin D might in fact increase your risk. There is potential benefit, but also potential risk of prostate cancer for men. At this stage the best decision you could make, would be to consult with your doctor and determine your levels then decide if you need more vitamin D.

Cancer Prevention with Whole Grains

Whole Grains Cancer Reduction

Whole Grains Cancer Reduction

One of the best ways to reduce your cancer risk is to maintain a healthy diet with a diverse intake of foods. Generally, consuming foods that haven’t been processed is best, so fresh fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains. Research has revealed that whole grains are a particularly important form of food for the reduction of risk in certain types of cancer. This article will take a look at which types of cancer whole grains can help prevent and how to choose whole grain foods!

Whole grains are cereal grains that contain cereal germ, endosperm, and bran. They are close to their natural form as opposed to refined grains that have been processed to make them more easily used in processed foods or to improve the aesthetics of the food. Refined grains only contain the endosperm because the milling process removes the cereal germ and bran. The bran is the outer protective layer of the grain kernels and the endosperm is the starchy carbohydrate inside the bran husk. The germ is a very healthy part of the grain because it contains vitamin B, minerals, protein and healthy fats. Unfortunately processing the grain will remove the germ and you lose all of those benefits.

You can refer to the image above to see the different parts of a wheat grain. The next time you are shopping you can also compared brown rice and white rice to see the difference between unprocessed and processed rice. The brown rice is the natural state of rice, before the germ and bran have been removed in the processing. After the rice is processed it is white and faster to cook. That makes it more convenient but you also lose many of the natural nutrients in the rice.

Health Benefits of Grains

Many of the plant compounds in whole grains are very nutritious and contain compounds that can help protect your cells from damage that can lead to cancer. Whole grains are also high in fiber which helps maintain good overall health as well as reducing the risk of cancer of stomach, colon and rectum (amongst others). In addition to the fiber there are various antioxidants, phenols, lignans and saponins (organic compounds). Let;s take a closer look at these components.

Antioxidants are compounds that help minimize cell oxidization from free radicals. Anti-oxidants can help prevent aging, help you remain healthy and help prevent cancer.

Phenols are fragrant organic compounds in oils that also have interesting antibacterial properties and help your immune system. Lignans are a plant based form of estrogen that can help protect damaged cells. Saponins act as natural anti-biotic within the body as well as playing a role in fighting cholesterol and protecting against cancer.

Cancer Research Findings

Many studies have been performed into the possible link between whole grains and cancer prevention. A meta-analysis of 19 studies into the link between whole grains and reduction of risk of colo-rectal cancer and gastric cancer found that in 16 of the studies, the cancer risk reduction from whole grains was “high” compared to a diet with only refined grains.

A separate meta-study saw 45 from 50 studies mention that whole grains have an associated decrease in cancer risk. Whole grain consumption mostly reduces risk in gastro-intestinal cancers with analysis showing a 20% reduced risk of colon cancer, 28% reduced risk of pancreatic cancer and a 40% lower risk of gastric cancer.

Other research papers have linked the consumption of whole grains to a reduction of risk for 18 types of cancer. That includes reduced risk of stomach, colon, gallbladder, liver, rectum and pancreatic cancers.

Eating More Whole Grains

It’s very easy to start eating more whole grains and get the great cancer prevention and health benefits. Stop buying white bread and choose a healthier brown or grain bread. Remove white rice from your diet and start using brown. You can also switch to whole grain cereals instead of processed cereals like your standard corn flakes. Some whole grains are fun to eat, like pop corn! Switch to wholemeal crackers, brown flour and look into the ingredients of ready to eat meals – are their better alternatives.

Once you make the switch you will not only find that you are reducing cancer risk, but you will also have increased energy and fell better. The extra nutrition in whole grains will have an impact on your overall health. Try it out!

Pancreatic Cancer Overview

Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic Cancer

The human pancreas is an organ in the digestive system, which produces important hormones and assists in the digestive process. Amongst those hormones, the most important it produces include insulin, pancreatic polypeptide, glucagon and somatostatin. The pancreas also excretes digestive enzymes that help the body absorb nutrients from food and helps digest food in the small intestine. The enzymes also help obtain important elements from food including proteins and carbohydrates.

Pancreatic Cancer arises from malformed cells in the pancreas tissues itself that lead to tumors. The most common type is adenocarcinoma which accounts for 95% of all instances of pancreatic cancer. A lesser number come from islet cells and are designated neuroendocrine tumors. The type of pancreatic cancer present, the location of the tumors and the size of the tumors can mean widely varying symptoms but they usually include lower back pain, jaundice and abdominal pain.

Pancreatic Cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world, ranking 8th globally, but 4th in the USA. Unfortunately, the survival rates for this kind of cancer are very low with 5 year survival rates for localized pancreatic cancer around 20%. For people who have advanced pancreatic cancer, which is usually the state of the cancer by the time it is detected, life expectancy is usually less than a year.

Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer
Unfortunately, just like a number of other types of cancer, the early stages of pancreatic cancer do not show any obvious and distinctive symptoms. That is one of the reasons the survival rates for pancreatic cancer are so low – it’s not usually discovered until a late stage.

Some of the more common symptoms include:

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Loss of appetite, nausea
  • Pain in the upper abdomen and lower back
  • Jaundice (yellow tinting of the eyes)
  • Darkened urine
  • Pale colored stool (associated with the jaundice)
  • Blood clots in portal vessels, which may lead to Trosseau Sign
  • Diabetes or elevated blood sugar levels

Pancreatic cancer will usually metastize to to the lymph nodes, then liver and even the lungs on rare occaisions. Symptoms from cancer in those locations may also appear.

Pancreatic Cancer Risk Factors

As with most forms of cancer, having a family history of this form of cancer greatly increases the likelihood you will have it, as much as a 10% greater risk in the case of pancreatic cancer The genes that are responsible for hereditary gene cancer have not been found yet, but links with certain gene mutations and syndromes have been found. Some of those syndromes and mutations include: Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, autosomal recessive ataxia-telangiectasia, hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer and familial adenomatous polyposis.

The older you are, the greater your risk of developing pancreatic cancer with most cases occurring over the age 60.

A poor diet or excessive amounts of certain foods also increases the risk of pancreatic cancer. If your diet is low in vegetables and fruits, but high in red meat you have an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. Drinking a lot of sugar sweetened drinks also increases your risk of pancreatic cancer with a link between fructose consumption and the growth of pancreatic cancer cells.

If you have diabetes mellitus, you also have an increased risk of contracting pancreatic cancer. If you smoke cigarettes you are greatly increasing your chance of contracting pancreatic cancer.

Some studies have linked alcohol consumption to pancreatic cancer but not all research is in agreement on that link.

Pancreatic Cancer Prevention

The best form of prevention for pancreatic cancer is not smoking, as smoking cigarettes is responsible for an estimated >30% of pancreatic cancer incidents.

Having a varied and healthy diet will also help prevent pancreatic cancer. So a variety of whole grains and vegetables will help prevent the illness. Reducing or eliminating red meat intake will also decrease the risk of pancreatic cancer.

Vitamin D has also been shown to have a role in preventing pancreatic cancer, with individuals who consumed 300 to 450 IU of vitamin D having a 43% lower risk of contracting the illness compared to those who had less than 150 IU vitamin D per day. 150 IU is less than what is recommended for good general health. However the World Health Organization found the link between vitamin D not necessarily persuasive. The WHO found a link between Vitamin D intake and colorectal cancer though, so correcting any vitamin D deficiencies would be well advised. Just remember that excessive vitamin D intake can be harmful, so talk with your doctor.

Other vitamins that play a role in reducing the risk of pancreatic cancer include Vitamin B, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6 and folate. However they should be consumed in food, not in tablet form. Mushrooms and eggs are both very good sources of Vitamin B if you are reducing intake of red meat.

Maintaining a healthy weight is also a preventative for most cancers as is regular aerobic exercise.

If you have a family history of pancreatic cancer, you should undertake regular screening after 50.

Pancreatic Cancer Treatment & Prognosis
For exocrine pancreas cancer, surgery is often used not as a cure, but to prolong life or address metastasis of the cancer. The “Whipple Procedure” is the most common curative surgery for pancreatic cancer and involves removing the head of the pancreas and the curve of the duodenum. That makes a bypass from stomach to jejunum. It can only be performed if the patient is likely to survive such major surgery and the cancer is localized.

Radiation is occasionally used to treat this form of cancer, often in conjunction with other treatments.

Chemotherapy is used in palliative care for pancreatic cancer, not as a method for curing the cancer. It often improves the quality of life for late term pancreatic cancer patients.

For pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, they are often surgically removed but sometimes may be left in place and carefully monitored. These kinds of tumors can also respond to radiation therapy and hormone therapy.

Exocrine pancreatic cancer has a very poor prognosis because it shows very few early symptoms and is usually only caught at a late stage.

For pancreatic cancer of all stages the 1 year survival rate is 25%, the 5 year survival rate is approximately 5%. When the pancreatic cancer is locally confined, 5 year survival is 20%. It is one of the most deadly forms of cancer and to maximise your chances of preventing and detecting it you should maintain good health and get screening if you are at high risk due to family history, age or poor health.