Cancer Treatment Centers of America

A healthy diet may lower pancreatic cancer risk, new study shows


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A new study conducted by the National Cancer Institute shows people who follow healthy eating guidelines may reduce their risk of developing pancreatic cancer by 15 percent.

The study surveyed the eating habits of 500,000 people between the ages of 50-71. Ten years later, their eating habits were assessed again. Those who adhered to a healthy diet during the 10 years were less likely to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Further, study participants who were obese benefited more from a healthy diet than normal-weight people.

“Though we’ve known for over 30 years that a plant-based diet can decrease cancer risk, it’s very impactful to see research studies confirming this link with actual numbers,” says Kristen Trukova, Clinical Oncology Dietitian at our hospital near Chicago. “It’s even more valuable to realize that persons in this study cut their cancer risk over ten years, at ages 50-71 – showing that it’s never too late to make a difference with food choices.”

Previous studies of the role diet plays in pancreatic cancer risk were inconclusive. Although this particular study showed a strong correlation, the findings still need to be confirmed. A person who eats well may also engage in other habits that promote health, such as exercising, that could also be a factor.

According to the American Cancer Society, rates of pancreatic cancer have been slowly increasing over the past 10 years, with over 45,000 people estimated to be diagnosed in 2013. The pancreas is located deep inside the body, making early detection of pancreatic tumors difficult.

The dietary guidelines used in the study were based off of the recommendations found in the 2005 Healthy Eating Index (HEI), which is used to examine relationships between diet and health outcomes, among other things.  The HEI suggests eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy to stay well-nourished.

“It’s empowering for us to understand that we do have an impact on our future cancer risk – at every meal,” says Trukova.

Learn more about the benefits of good nutrition.