Press Releases

2005 Releases

Study Finds No Association Between Dietary Patterns and Pancreatic Cancer Among Men and Women

For immediate release:  April 05, 2005

Boston, MA – Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), assessing dietary patterns among men and women and risk of pancreatic cancer, found no association with two wide-ranging dietary patterns and the risk of pancreatic cancer. The findings appear in the April 6, 2005 edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Dominique Michaud, assistant professor of epidemiology at HSPH and lead author of the study and colleagues, assessed the dietary patterns of nearly 125,000 participants who were enrolled in the Brigham and Women's Hospital-based Nurses' Health Study (NHS) and the HSPH based Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS). Analyzing detailed food frequency questionnaires sent to the participants every four years between 1984 (for NHS participants) and 1986 (for HPFS participants) and up to 2000, they identified two dietary patterns; the western diet, consisting of high consumption of red meat, processed meat, French fries, processed grains, sweets, desserts and sugared beverages and the prudent diet, consisting of high consumption of fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, legumes and whole grains. During the span of the study 366 cases of pancreatic cancer were documented (185 men and 181 women).

The researchers found no strong association between the two dietary patterns and the risk of pancreatic cancer among the study participants, even when looking at lifestyle factors such as smoking and body mass index. Participants who were the strongest adherents to the prudent diet also had healthier lifestyle behaviors, such as not smoking, exercising more, taking multivitamins and drinking less alcohol compared to the participants in the study who were the strongest adherents of the western diet.

“Although we did not find any associations with two major dietary patterns, individual dietary components are still likely to play a role in the risk of pancreatic cancer,” said Dominique Michaud. “We have previously shown that a high glycemic load and dietary sugar are related to an elevated risk of pancreatic cancer among women. More research needs to be done to examine individual dietary factors. Prevention is a priority in such a highly fatal disease. Both smoking and obesity increase pancreatic cancer risk and should be considered for prevention.”

The research was funded by grants from Public Health Service and the National Cancer Institute.

For further information contact:
Robin Herman
Assistant Director of Communications
Harvard School of Public Health
677 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115