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Pancreatic Cancer Health Center

Obese Patients With Pancreatic Cancer Have Shorter Survival, Study Finds

Reasons for link are unclear, but might involve inflammatory issues or differences in treatment
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It also seemed to matter how long the patient had been obese -- the association between weight and survival was strongest for the 202 patients who were obese 18 to 20 years before being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Krishnamurthi said the reasons for the link aren't clear. She said the study can't tell us whether shorter survival in obese patients "was due to biologic changes that can occur in obesity, such as increased inflammation in the body, or whether the obesity caused other conditions that interfered with the treatment of pancreatic cancer."

"We need more research into how obesity may increase cancer rates and/or aggressiveness," she said.

In a statement from the journal, lead author Wolpin said the research "reinforces the importance of maintaining a healthy weight throughout your life, which may lead to better outcomes after diagnosis and help prevent pancreatic cancer from developing."

"While our findings will not affect the way we treat patients today, they provide new leads for investigating the molecular pathways that may be responsible for the survival difference between obese and healthy-weight patients," Wolpin said. "Hopefully, in the future, that research will bring new approaches for treatment of pancreatic cancer."

Another expert agreed.

"This finding may provide clues about the biology of pancreatic cancer that could eventually be useful in treating patients," said Eric Jacobs, strategic director of pharmacoepidemiology at the American Cancer Society.

"At this point, however, the great majority of pancreatic cancer patients, regardless of their weight, will die of their disease within a few years," Jacobs said. "The most important thing to know about obesity and pancreatic cancer is that maintaining a healthy weight throughout life can help lower the risk of ever developing this highly fatal cancer."

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