Individuals can significantly reduce their risk of developing pancreatic cancer by increasing their dietary intake of the antioxidant vitamins C, E, and selenium, say researchers who are leading the Norfolk arm of the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC) study.
The study, published in the journal Gut, states that 1 in 12 of these cancers might be prevented if the association turns out to be casual. More than a 250,000 people die each year around the world due to pancreatic cancer. In the UK, 7,500 people are diagnosed with the disease each year.
Only 5% of patients with pancreatic cancer survive beyond 5 years, say the researchers. Risk factors of the disease include, smoking, type 2 diabetes, and diet. The team analyzed the health of more than 23,500 adults who participated in the Norfolk arm of the EPIC study between 1993 and 1992. Patients were aged 40 to 74 years old.
All study participates filled out a food diary tracking the types and amounts of food the consumed during a 7 day period. In addition, they detailed the methods they used to prepare the food. The team then matched each entry in the food diary to one of 11,00 food items. They then used a specially designed computer program called DINER in order to calculate the nutrient values.
According to the researchers, 49 people developed pancreatic cancer within 10 years of participating in the study, and this figure increased to 86 people by 2010. On average, they survived six months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
The nutrient intakes of participants diagnosed with the disease were compared with those of almost 4,000 healthy individuals in order to see if there were any differences.
According to the researchers, weekly intake of selenium in the top 25% of consumption roughly reduced their risk of developing pancreatic cancer by 50% compared with those whose intake was in the bottom 25%. In addition, patients were 67% less likely to develop the disease if their intake of vitamins C, Em and selenium was in the top 25% of consumption. The researchers note that antioxidants may neutralize free radicals and curb genetically programmed influences, as well as stimulating the immune system response.