Tobacco use, obesity and heavy alcohol consumption were the biggest risk factors for the development of diseases in the organ.
The research team led by Dr Max Petrov and Prof. John Windsor from the university’s Department of Surgery, carried out an extensive review and analysis of 51 prospective cohort studies in the general population that had included more than 3m individuals and nearly 11,000 patients with pancreatic disorders.
They investigated 31 different factors—nine risk factors, four protective factors, and 18 factors that were neutral.
Current tobacco use was the single most important risk factor for developing pancreatic diseases, increasing the risk of acquiring a condition by 87% when compared with those who never smoked. This was followed by obesity and heavy use of alcohol.
Tobacco and heavy alcohol use had bigger effects on the risk of acute pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis than on pancreatic cancer.
“The best quality data showed that vegetable consumption and fruit consumption provided the greatest protection against pancreatic diseases”, said Petrov. “Vegetable consumption had a stronger association with protection against acute pancreatitis, and fruit consumption with protection against pancreatic cancer.”
The 51 prospective cohort studies in the general population included in the review came from the United States, (17), Sweden (16), Japan (11) and two each from Austria, Denmark and Norway, and one from Singapore.
NZ lagging in research
“Unfortunately, no quality population based study came from New Zealand, reflecting a lack of national linkage of health data,” added Petrov. “This is in stark contrast to thriving data linkage networks that our colleagues in Scandinavia and the United States have been enjoying for more than a decade.
“ There is a strong need to invest in a health data linkage system in New Zealand, if risk and protective factors for diseases of the pancreas (and other organs) in New Zealanders are to be unveiled.”
In the United States alone, pancreatic diseases (most commonly acute pancreatitis, chronic pancreatitis, and pancreatic cancer) affect more than 330,000 people each year. The USA spends US$2.6bn per year just on the inpatient costs for acute pancreatitis. Pancreatic cancer is predicted to become the leading cause of cancer deaths by 2050.