Can You Prevent Pancreatic Cancer?

Clearly, one of the scariest cancers we have is pancreatic cancer.  Not only because of its dismal 5 year survival rate and how difficult it can be to detect, but also because of how common it seems.

All this in combination makes pancreatic cancer a death sentence.  I’m sure you know at least one person close to you that has been taken from pancreatic cancer.  Least likely is that you know someone who has survived longer than 2 years after diagnosis.

While pancreatic cancer is not exactly off the radar screen, it certainly does not have the notoriety that other cancers like breast, prostate or colon cancer has.  There is no “Race for the Pancreas” or “Save the Beta Cells” fundraising events or T-shirts.  Not even any of those fancy wristbands.

Nope.  Just the silent screams of those dying around us.

Luckily, much like all the other cancers, pancreatic cancer is very preventable.  Right off the bat, the strong connection between prediabetes and pancreatic cancer jumps to mind and probably explains why we are seeing so many more cases than we have in the past.  This message, however, does not seem to be making it out.  I remember being in the room when someone close to me had been given the fateful diagnosis.  The oncologist basically said that, since there was no family history and this person was not a smoker, we really don’t know how this happened.

The most disappointing part of this exchange was that the children were given no insight into the fact that their lifestyles needed to be fixed or the risk was going to be even greater for them.

This particular study is another one looking at how much lifestyle choices can lower your risk of pancreatic cancer.  Researchers compared a group of pancreatic cancer patients to matched cancer-free controls to see how much vitamins C and E, selenium and zinc played a role in their risk of developing cancer.  Intake was determined by diet as well as having vitamin C levels measured in the blood.  Here’s what they found:

  1. Those who ate foods with the most vitamins C and E and selenium had a 67% lower risk of being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
  2. Individually, those who ate foods with more selenium had a 51% lower risk.
  3. Higher intakes of vitamin E led to a 43% lower risk.
  4. For those with the highest levels of vitamin C in the blood there was a 33% lower risk.

It is likely that, while the study looked at just these 4 nutrients, those with the highest intakes also had the highest overall diet quality.  Higher diet quality has been shown to lower cancer risk in almost all types of cancer.

But the bottom line is that it is NOT a crap shoot.  The choices YOU make will determine whether or not you are going to develop pancreatic cancer.  There are always other factors you may not be able to control, but identify the ones you can and make the needed changes.  Don’t be a victim.

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.