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.

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.