Heavy consumption of hot dogs, sausages and luncheon
meats, along with other forms of processed meat, was associated
with the greatest risk of pancreatic cancer in a large
multiethnic study reported today at the 96th Annual Meeting
of the American Association for Cancer Research.
"The results suggest that carcinogenic substances related
to meat preparation, rather than their inherent fat or
cholesterol content, might be responsible for the association,"
said Ute Nöthlings, DrPH, MSE, the study's lead investigator
from the Cancer Research Center at the University of Hawaii
Meat consumption has been linked to pancreatic cancer
in several case-control studies in the past, but the results
have been inconsistent and data from prospective studies
has been lacking.
For this study, researchers from the Cancer Research
Center and USC examined the relationship of diet to pancreatic
cancer among 190,545 men and women of African-American,
Japanese-American, Caucasian, Latino and Native Hawaiian
origin who were part of the Multiethnic Cohort Study in
Hawaii and Los Angeles. An average follow-up of seven
years yielded 482 incident cases of pancreatic cancer.
The researchers found that the heavy consumption of
processed meats resulted in the highest risk for pancreatic
cancer, after adjusting for age, smoking status, history
of diabetes, familial history of pancreatic cancer and
ethnicity. Those who consumed the greatest amount of processed
meats had a 67 percent increase in risk over those participants
with the lowest intake of this food category. A diet rich
in pork and red meat also increased pancreatic cancer
risk by about 50 percent, compared to their counterparts
who ate less meat.
Consumption of poultry, fish, dairy products and eggs
showed no link to pancreatic cancer risk, nor did overall
intake of total fat, saturated fat, or cholesterol.
"An analysis of fat and saturated fat intakes showed
a significant increase in risk for fats from meat, but
not from dairy products, indicating that fat and saturated
fat are not likely to contribute to the underlying carcinogenic
mechanism," said Nöthlings.
In particular, the scientists suggest that chemical
reactions that occur during the preparation of processed
meats might be responsible for the association. Such reactions
can yield carcinogens including heterocyclic amines or
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
"Our study is the largest of its kind to demonstrate
a link between high consumption of processed meats over
long periods of time and pancreatic cancer," said Nöthlings.
"The sample size allowed us to obtain statistically significant
risk-estimates that support this hypothesis."