Pancreatic Cancer: 3 VERY Scary Findings, 2 Great Ones

Of all the cancers out there, pancreatic cancer is high on the list of scary ones. Treatment is expensive, debilitating and really does little to extend life except in unusual circumstances. Look at it this way–if Steve Jobs and Patrick Swayze could not find resources to help them, what chance does the average person stand?

I don’t mean to sound negative, but it’s a very harsh reality when it comes to this particular cancer. Part of this may be due to the difficulty in diagnosis (it has a tendency to mimic other conditions like ulcers, abdominal pain, reflux and gallbladder problems), but I think it is just a very hard cancer to treat.

And the rates of pancreatic cancer are increasing at an alarming rate.

Just in case all the above has you scared, good. Maybe this will be enough to make the necessary changes to your lifestyle because pancreatic cancer is heavily preventable.

Sure, smoking, a family history of pancreatic cancer and a history of acute or chronic pancreatitis are risk factors that most know about. I remember being in a room with an oncologist telling a patient that we don’t really know why this person got pancreatic cancer because there were none of the traditional risk factors noted above.  Sad that the oncologist apparently does not read medical journals.

So what do we know of that contributes to pancreatic cancer risk besides family history, smoking and pancreatitis?  The list starts here:

  1. Prediabetes and diabetes are massive risk factors for developing pancreatic cancer.
  2. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to pancreatic cancer.
  3. Higher intakes of compounds from tea, cabbage, fruits and wine led to a whopping 41% reduction.
  4. Soft drinks greatly increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.
  5. Obesity combined with inactivity doubles your risk of pancreatic cancer.

The list certainly gets longer, but you get the idea.

Just in case you STILL don’t get the idea, let me point out this particular study.

Researchers looked at the levels of certain heavy metals and certain minerals to see how they related to the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Normally, I don’t blog on these types of studies, but the levels of risk and protection were so striking that I couldn’t pass it up. Here’s what they found:

  1. Cadmium (high in cigarette smoke, certain fertilizers) increased risk 358%
  2. Arsenic (mining, smelting and pesticides) double the risk
  3. Lead exposure topped the risk chart at 626% increased risk.

On the flip side, researchers found that two elements were very protective against pancreatic cancer:

  1. Higher levels of selenium (very high in Brazil nuts) led to a whopping 95% lower risk (yes–that’s almost a complete elimination of risk).
  2. Nickel (found in beans, cocoa, hazel nuts, almonds and  pistachios) led to a still-honorary 73% lower risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

Looking at these numbers, you can see that, with the right choices, the risk of one of the scariest cancers known to man can be almost eliminated.

As would be expected, the American Cancer Society lists only cigarette smoking as a risk factor for the development of pancreatic cancer. While the above study is not concrete, the recommendation to eat more Brazil nuts and avoid heavy metal exposure would certainly benefit everyone with little risk involved.

Prior to reading this blog post, were you aware that pancreatic cancer was preventable?

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.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

4 thoughts on “Pancreatic Cancer: 3 VERY Scary Findings, 2 Great Ones

  1. Unless you count on all readers contacting you for advice on selenium, would it be a good idea to include type of selenium most useful and maximum safe dose (400 mcg)?
    When I was diagnosed w/DCIS over 10 years ago, Dr. Gaby started me on selenium (among other supplements) and so far so good. I use selenium methionine (yeast base) and avoid brazil nuts because they add 543 mcg/oz or just 6-8 nuts.

  2. Pat,

    Thanks for the additional info! Especially as it relates to DCIS, which has come under increasing scrutiny over the past few years in regards to aggressive vs non-aggressive treatment.

  3. Luckily I was referred to a Baltimore area surgeon known for conservative surgery approach and was followed for 6 months and discharged. I know I am a very high risk w/ mother and aunt having had breast cancer, but as you know I prefer the life style approach to prevention.

Comments are closed.