Abdominal Fat May Be Linked To Pancreatic Cancer

A tape measureWomen with large waist sizes may be up to 70% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than their slimmer counterparts according to a new study published online this month in the British Journal of Cancer.

The study, which was headed by Dr Juhua Luo of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, involved the study of almost 140,000 post-menopausal women aged 50-79 from the Women’s Health Initiative. The women were initially free of pancreatic cancer and were followed for an average period of 7.7 years.

During the study, 251 of the women developed pancreatic cancer. 78 of the women who developed pancreatic cancer were in the top quartile for waist to hip ratios while just 34 of the women were in the lowest quartile for waist to hip ratios. After adjusting for other factors such as smoking, age, and BMI, women in the top quartile for waist to hip ratio were 70% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than women in the lowest quartile for waist to hip ratio. The researchers calculated that every 0.1 increase in the waist to hip ratio increased the risk of pancreatic cancer by 27%.

In contrast neither BMI, waist circumference, nor hip circumference alone were associated with pancreatic cancer risk.

The waist to hip ratio is found by measuring the circumference of the waist at the belly button and dividing it by the circumference of the hips at their widest point. An optimal waist to hip ratio is 0.7 for women and 0.9 for men. The waist to hip ratio has also been found to correlate with the risk of diabetes, heart disease, several forms of cancer, and even Alzheimer’s disease.

Pancreatic cancer is the most deadly form of cancer in the United States with just 2% of recently diagnosed individuals still alive five years later. Other risk factors thought to be associated with pancreatic cancer include smoking, diabetes, pancreatitis, and diets high in red meat and saturated fat.

Males are slightly more susceptible to pancreatic cancer and the risk increases with age with the majority of pancreatic cancer cases diagnosed in individuals over the age of 60. Last year around 35,000 people died of pancreatic cancer in the United States making it the fourth highest cause of cancer death behind breast, colo-rectal, and lung cancer.