A diet high in red meat appears to raise the risk developing pancreatic cancer, Swedish researchers report in the International Journal of Cancer. The good news is that consumption of poultry may cut the risk.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly cancers, due, in large part, because it is seldom detected at an early, curable stage. Surgical removal offers the only chance for a cure, but only a small percentage of patients are candidates for this therapy. In many cases, removal is not possible when surgery reveals that the cancer has actually spread outside the pancreas.
“Findings from our study,” lead investigator Dr. Susanna C. Larsson told Reuters Health “suggest that high consumption of red meat is associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.”
Larsson of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and colleagues conducted a study of more than 61,000 women. The investigators were interested in the possible effects of meat, fish, poultry and egg consumption. During 17 years of follow-up, 172 of these women were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Long-term consumption of red meat was associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer, whereas consumption of poultry was linked to a decreased risk.
There were no significant associations with consumption of processed meat, fish or eggs. “These findings,” Larsson concluded, “raise the possibility that individuals may lower their risk of pancreatic cancer by reducing red meat consumption.”
SOURCE: International Journal of Cancer, June 1, 2006.
Revision date: July 3, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD