The average risk of pancreatic cancer for both men and women is about 1 in 65. However, certain factors drive up that risk. Observational studies have shown that diet may play a role. Until recently, there hasn’t been clinical study of the matter. A recent study shows that dietary changes may reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer in older women.

For this study, researchers looked at overweight women between the ages of 50 to 79 who ate high-fat diets. From this sample of more than 46,000 women, they randomly assigned them to two groups. One group had their diets modified to consume less fat, while the control group did not receive dietary changes. After 15 years of follow up, there were 92 cases of pancreatic cancer in the intervention group compared to 165 in the control group. This translates to 35 per 100,000 vs 41 per 100,000 people per year. This is a great reduction in risk.

These results are directly in line with previous observational studies. Since this study was on women, the results may not be generalizable to men. That will require study on its own. They did not observe the reduced risk in older women who were of average weight. There may be existing metabolic differences between the two groups that need exploration in the future.

The main takeaway is that dietary changes can reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer, specifically lowering fat intake. A healthy and balanced diet is key to overall health.

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Li Jiao et al. “Low-fat Dietary Pattern and Pancreatic Cancer Risk in the Women’s Health Initiative Dietary Modification Randomized Controlled Trial”, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, vol 110, issue 1.

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