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High antioxidant diet could lower pancreatic cancer risk

High antioxidant diet could lower pancreatic cancer risk

Friday, July 27, 2012. Research described in an article published online on July 24, 2012 in the journal Gut reveals an association between higher levels of dietary antioxidants and a lower risk of cancer of the pancreas, one of the most deadly forms of cancer.

A team from the University of East Anglia and the University of Cambridge in England evaluated data from 23,658 participants in the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC)-Norfolk study of men and women residing in Norfolk, England. Seven-day food diaries completed after enrollment provided data concerning the participants' intake of vitamins C and E, selenium and zinc. Blood samples provided by 95 percent of the subjects were analyzed for serum vitamin C levels.

Over the first decade of follow up, 49 men and women developed cancer of the pancreas. Among participants whose combined intake of vitamins C and E, and selenium were among the top 75 percent of participants, there was a 67 percent lower risk of developing pancreatic cancer compared to subjects whose intake was among the lowest 25 percent. When the nutrients were analyzed separately, the strongest protective effect was observed for selenium.

Increasing serum levels of vitamin C were also associated with a reduction in pancreatic cancer risk. Those whose vitamin C levels were among the top one-fourth of participants experienced an 81 percent lower risk of cancer of the pancreas compared with those whose levels were among the lowest fourth. Andrew R. Hart and colleagues remark that if the association is causal, 8.2 percent of all pancreatic cancers could be prevented by improved intake of selenium and vitamins C and E. They note that antioxidants scavenge free radicals that are increased by smoking and diabetes, which are risk factors for pancreatic cancer. These nutrients may also help reduce chronic inflammation that plays a role in the development of the disease.

"If a causal association is confirmed by reporting consistent findings from other epidemiological studies, then population based dietary recommendations may help to prevent pancreatic cancer," they conclude.

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Higher selenium, nickel levels associated with protection against pancreatic cancer

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A report published online on December 20, 2011 in the journal Gut revealed a protective effect for increased levels of selenium and nickel against the development of exocrine pancreatic cancer—the most common pancreatic malignancy.

A team from the Spanish National Cancer Research Center and the University of Barcelona conducted a case-control study involving 118 men and women diagnosed with exocrine pancreatic cancer and 399 cancer-free control subjects residing in Spain. Toenail samples were analyzed for arsenic, cadmium, lead, nickel, selenium and other trace elements.

Having a high level of arsenic was associated with double the adjusted risk of exocrine pancreatic cancer than the risk experienced by those with a low level, and having high levels of cadmium and lead were associated with a 3.5 and six times greater risk. Subjects with a high level of selenium had a 95 percent lower risk of the disease, and those with high levels of nickel had a 73 percent decrease. While protective benefits for selenium have been indicated by numerous studies, occupational exposure to nickel has been associated with an increased risk of some cancers, however, the researchers remark that nickel may be associated with higher amounts of potentially carcinogenic polychlorinated biphenyls in occupational settings, which could account for the elevated cancer risk.

"Aberrant expression patterns of some selenoproteins show that they are relevant in scavenging reactive oxygen species and diminishing oxidative damage," Andre F. S. Amaral and his colleagues write. "Selenium seems also to play a role as an antagonist of arsenic, cadmium and lead, decreasing the oxidative stress caused by exposure to these elements."

They conclude that the findings point to a role of trace elements in the development of cancer of the pancreas and warrant further research.

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