Intake of antioxidants may impact pancreatic cancer risk

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Intake of antioxidants may impact pancreatic cancer risk

An article was published online in the highly regarded journal Gut on July 23, 2012, describing a potential protective effect of dietary intake of antioxidants on the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

Between the years 1993 and 1997, over 23,000 participants in Norfolk County, UK responded to questionnaires describing their medical histories and other characteristics, such as body mass index, smoking history, etc. Then, each participant filled out a detailed diary of their dietary intakes over a seven-day period. This study is considered prospective, or forward-looking, because individuals were monitored for many years after their initial participation. The participants were followed over a ten-year span, and 49 individuals went on to develop pancreatic cancer.

In this study, the authors looked at dietary intake of antioxidants to determine whether there was a correlation with pancreatic cancer risk. In general, the role of antioxidants is to detoxify and block the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS can be harmful to human cells, inducing DNA damage. Damage to DNA is known to promote and support tumor formation, and previous evidence has suggested that consumption of antioxidants in food or dietary supplements may play a role in preventing or alleviating cancer.

The Gut paper describes study participants’ intakes of four antioxidants: vitamins C and E, selenium, and zinc. Intake of each antioxidant was divided into four levels, or quartiles. For vitamins C and E and selenium, individuals with the lowest quartile of each antioxidant intake were at a higher risk of pancreatic cancer development, compared to individuals who took in the higher three levels of the vitamin or mineral. There was not a statistically significant association observed with zinc.

It is important to note that the authors only found a correlation with pancreatic cancer risk in individuals consuming very low levels of these antioxidants. Consuming high levels was not better than consuming moderate levels, and there are different types of dangers associated with too high of an exposure to these and other vitamins and minerals. Please consult a registered dietitian or other specialist before making changes to food or dietary supplement intake.

For more information about this study or other questions about pancreatic cancer diet and nutrition, diagnosis, or treatment, please contact a PanCAN Patient Services Case Manager toll-free at 877-272-6226 or by completing our contact form. PanCAN Patient Services Case Managers are available M-F 7am-5pm Pacific Time.

Click here for the scientific abstract of the study.