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Pancreatic Cancer Health Center

Eat Antioxidants to Lower Pancreatic Cancer Risk?

Are Vitamins E and C and Selenium the Key to Preventing Pancreatic Cancer?
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Antioxidant Trio Slashes Pancreatic Cancer Risk

Researchers analyzed the seven-day food diaries of more than 23,500 people aged 40 to 74. Forty-nine people developed pancreatic cancer within 10 years of entering the study. Researchers then compared diets among people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer to those of nearly 4,000 people without pancreatic cancer.

People who ate more selenium were 50% less likely to develop pancreatic cancer compared to those who ate the least amounts of selenium-rich foods. And those whose vitamin C, E, and selenium intake was in the top 75% were 67% less likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those who ate the lowest amount of foods rich in this trio of antioxidants.

Researchers only looked at foods rich in these nutrients, not individual supplements. Vitamin C is found in fruits and vegetables such as :

  • citrus fruits
  • red berries
  • red and green bell peppers

Vitamin E can be found in food such as:

  • vegetable oils
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • egg yolk

Selenium is a mineral found in soil. Some selenium-rich foods include:

  • cereal
  • fish
  • meat

What Causes Pancreatic Cancer?

The pancreas is a long, flat gland that lies in the abdomen behind the stomach. Its job is to produce enzymes that help with digestion. It also produces certain hormones that maintain the proper level of blood sugar.

Researchers still don't fully understand the cause of pancreatic cancer. Smoking and diabetes are considered risk factors. Some evidence points to obesity as another potential risk. 

Simon Yeung, PharmD, reviewed the new findings for WebMD. He is a pharmacist at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. "The study is very preliminary and just shows an interesting association between foods and pancreatic cancer."

Other studies have shown that high amounts of vitamin E and selenium may increase risk of other cancers such as prostate cancer. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is important for overall good health. But Yeung says it is too early to make any recommendations about specific ways to lower your risk for pancreatic cancer.

Vincent Vinciguerra, MD, is a little bit more optimistic about the new findings and their implications for people at risk for pancreatic cancer. He is the chief of the Don Monti Division of Oncology/Hematology at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Monter Cancer Center in Lake Success, N.Y.

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