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Smoking and risk of pancreatitis

Smoking boosts the risk of developing a difficult-to-treat inflammation of the pancreas, and this risk may persist even after kicking the habit.

Smoking and risk of pancreatitis

Smoking boosts the risk of developing a difficult-to-treat inflammation of the pancreas, and this risk may persist even after a person kicks the habit. Excessive alcohol use and gallstone disease are thought to account for most cases of pancreatitis but smoking is not typically considered to be a risk factor for this illness. To investigate whether smoking might indeed be harmful to the pancreas, researchers from Denmark analysed data from a 20-year study of 17,905 men and women. During follow-up, 235 people developed pancreatitis. The percentage of smokers in the study was high; 58 percent of women and 68 percent men reported being smokers, while 15 percent of women and 19 percent of men were ex-smokers and 28 percent of women and 13 percent of men had never smoked. It was found that people who reported being smokers or ex-smokers at the study's outset had a higher risk of developing pancreatitis than people who had never smoked. Men and women who smoked 15 to 24 grams of tobacco daily (about 15 to 24 cigarettes) were 3 times as likely to develop pancreatitis as non-smokers. The ex-smokers had about the same risk of pancreatitis as current smokers who used 1 to 14 grams of tobacco daily, or the equivalent of one to 14 cigarettes. The researchers also found that the effect of smoking was independent of alcohol use or gallstone disease. In fact, 46 percent of the cases of pancreatitis were due to smoking. The good news is that prevalence of smoking now seems to have dropped sharply, with about 30 percent of people in most Western countries currently smoking.
Archives of Internal Medicine
March 2009
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