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High starch diet increases risk of pancreatic cancer

A diet that is high in white bread, white rice and potatoes puts women at much higher risk of pancreatic cancer especially if they are overweight and do not exercise much as was recently reported by researchers. Previously, the only known risk factor for pancreatic cancer was smoking.

High starch diet increases risk of pancreatic cancer

A diet that is high in white bread, white rice and potatoes puts women at much higher risk of pancreatic cancer especially if they are overweight and do not exercise much as was recently reported by researchers. Previously, the only known risk factor for pancreatic cancer was smoking. This study was carried out to investigate whether diets high in foods that increase postprandial (after a meal) glucose levels are associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. The researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston carried out this study. They used data from the Nurse's Health Study, an ongoing study of 89,000 nurses who carefully record their diet and other habits and whose health is then watched. 180 case subjects with pancreatic cancer were diagnosed during 18 years of follow-up. The researchers used frequency of intake of individual foods as reported on a food-frequency questionnaire to calculate sucrose, fructose, carbohydrate intakes and glycaemic index (postprandial blood glucose response as compared with a reference food). They found that eating lots of unrefined starches, such as white bread and potatoes, increased the risk of pancreatic cancer by 57%. If the women were both overweight and sedentary, their risk was 2.5 times higher. Being obese, a sedentary lifestyle, a diet high in sugars all increase insulin levels. Insulin production is one of the pancreas' main functions and is used by the body to process blood sugar. In the laboratory, insulin promotes the growth of pancreatic cancer cells. It is suspected that body states that maintain high levels of insulin increase the risk of pancreatic cancer, which is an especially deadly cancer. Substituting less starchy vegetables and fruit are some simple steps that can be undertaken to reduce this potentially serious health risk. This finding may help people avoid developing the cancer and may eventually lead to better treatments.
Journal of the National Cancer Institute, August 2002, Vol. 94 (17)
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