An estimated 32,180 new cases and 31,800 deaths are expected to occur in the US in
2005. Actually, the death rate from pancreatic cancer has continued to decline since
1970s. The high death rate is due to absence of early symptoms. When symptoms
present, the symptoms may include weight loss, abdomen discomfort or glucose
intolerance. Tumors that develop near the common bile duct may lead to jaundice. This
symptom may allow the tumor to be diagnosed at an early stage.
Primary prevention is the most effective approach to reduce the incidence of pancreatic
cancer. Epidemiological studies have contributed to the identification of risk factors for
pancreatic cancer, suggesting an association with age, various medical conditions,
environmental and lifestyle risk factors, and occupational and genetic conditions. Age is
a strong risk factor. Patients with chronic pancreatitis and new onset of diabetes mellitus
have a low but increasing risk of having or developing pancreatic cancer. There is strong
evidence for the association of hereditary pancreatitis or cystic diseases of the pancreas
and pancreatic cancer. A family history of pancreatic cancer is an important risk factor.
Epidemiological studies also have suggested that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is
associated with reduced risk for a number of common cancers. Food components, i.e.
the phytochemicals, can modify carcinogenesis in one of five different ways. They may:
(1) modify carcinogen activation by inhibiting Phase 1 enzymes; (2) modify how
carcinogens are detoxified through Phase 2 pathways; (3) scavenge DNA reactive
agents; (4) suppress the abnormal proliferation of early, preneoplastic lesions; and (5)
inhibit certain properties of the cancer cell.
In a recent study, researchers from University of California at San Francisco found that
eating lots (at least five servings per day) of vegetables is associated with about a 50
percent reduction in the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. A serving is considered to
be about a half cup of cooked vegetables, two cups of leafy salad or one medium-sized
piece of fruit. Onions, garlic, beans, yellow vegetables, dark leafy vegetables and
cruciferous vegetables showed strong protective benefits in the study. And, the yellow
vegetables refer to carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, corn and yellow squash.
High-Vegetable Diet Linked to Protection against Pancreatic Cancer, Press Release, University of California
at San Francisco, Monday, 19 September '05 Wargovich MJ Experimental evidence for cancer preventive
elements in foods. Cancer Lett. 1997 Mar 19;114(1-2):11-7. Simon B et al, Epidemiological trends in
pancreatic neoplasias. Dig Dis. 2001;19(1):6-14. Cancer Facts and Figures 2005, American Cancer Society,
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