According to a study led by a University of Michigan gastroenterologist, individuals who smoke and drink alcohol excessively may be at risk of developing pancreatic cancer earlier than those who donít.
As many of us know, pancreatic cancer generally carries a very poor prognosis, so the timing of a diagnosis is very crucial. In most circumstances, by the time pancreatic cancer is diagnosed, it's already in its advanced stages. According the American Cancer Society, the average age of a pancreatic cancer diagnosis is 72, but heavy smokers and drinkers may see an earlier onset -- as much as a decade sooner.
Excessive alcohol consumption has been shown to cause oxidative damage to the pancreas, and smoking carries a strong risk factor as well. Both of these habits may contribute to the development of inflammatory pathways, which may lead to an earlier onset of pancreatic cancer.
Study information was obtained from 811 pancreatic cancer patients from a multicenter, international database known as the Pancreatic Cancer Collaborative Registry. The study's author looked at those individuals with heavy smoking habits (more than a pack per day), as well as excessive drinkers (those who consumed more than 39 grams per day, or approximately three drinks per day).
In regards to excessive alcohol consumption, beer drinkers presented with pancreatic cancer earlier than those who drank other types of alcohol, but when adjusted for the amount of alcohol consumed, the type of alcohol did not affect the age of presentation.
Not only does this study take a closer look at how excessive smoking and drinking habits contribute to a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, it also takes a step toward understanding the age pancreatic cancer screening should start -- once screening is available. Currently, there are no tests available to easily detect the disease for those who do not have symptoms.
ďAs screening programs are developed, an understanding of how personal features influence the age of presentation will be important to optimize the timing of those screenings,Ē says study author and gastroenterologist Michelle Anderson, MD, assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Health System.
There is hope for those individuals who make the choice to quit their smoking and drinking habits: After 10 years, former smokers and drinkers who quit face no extra risk of an early onset diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.
Looking back at your pancreatic cancer population, were any of them excessive drinkers and smokers? If so, what was the average age of diagnosis?