Fruit & Vegetable Consumption Lowers Pancreatic Cancer Risk

Fruit in a basketFruit and vegetable consumption may reduce the probability of developing pancreatic cancer according to several recent scientific studies.

One of the largest studies on the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and pancreatic cancer risk was published in September 2005 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. The study was conducted by researchers at the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California and involved analyzing the dietary habits of 532 individuals diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and comparing them to 1,701 healthy individuals.

After controlling for age at time of diagnosis, gender, and total calories consumed per day, those in the highest quartile for vegetable consumption had 55% reduced odds of developing pancreatic cancer compared to those in the lowest quartile of vegetable consumption. Those in the highest quartile of fruit and fruit juice consumption had 28% reduced odds of developing pancreatic cancer compared to those in the lowest quartile of fruit consumption.

The major findings of the study are presented in the graph below.

Graph of fruit & vegetable consumption and pancreatic cancer

The vegetables that appeared to provide the greatest reduction in pancreatic cancer were dark green vegetables such as spinach and silver beet. Yellow vegetables, carrots, beans, onions, garlic, and cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, and turnips were also strongly correlated with a reduction in pancreatic cancer risk. Potatoes, tomatoes, and light green vegetables were not associated with a reduction in pancreatic cancer risk.

Furthermore, those who consumed more than nine servings of fruit and vegetables a day had 51% reduced odds of pancreatic cancer compared to those eating less than five servings of fruit and vegetables.

Raw vegetables appeared to reduce pancreatic cancer risk more so than cooked vegetables. Cooking vegetables in animal fat was associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer compared to those who didn’t cook vegetables in animal fat.

Pancreatic cancer is a significant health problem in the United States due to both it’s difficulty to detect and treat. Pancreatic cancer sufferers have a poorer prognosis than any other form of cancer with just 3-4% of those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer still alive five years after the diagnosis. In the United States, pancreatic cancer is behind only breast, colo-rectal, and lung cancer in terms of cancer deaths per year. Pancreatic cancer is about 50% more common in men compared to women and effects blacks around 30% more than whites.

The incidence of pancreatic cancer increases dramatically with age. More than 80% of pancreatic cancer cases are diagnosed in people over the age of 60. While age standardized rates of pancreatic cancer appear to be quite stable, the number of cases diagnosed each year will continue to increase as the population ages.

While the underlying causes of pancreatic cancer are to a large extent unknown – smoking, obesity, low consumption of fruit and vegetables, high fasting blood sugar levels, and diabetes appear to be risk factors for the disease.