By Robert Preidt
Some were assigned to eat less fat and more vegetables, fruits and grains (the intervention group). Others followed their normal diet (the comparison group). This continued until 2005.
After 15 years of follow-up, 92 cases of pancreatic cancer were identified in the intervention group and 165 in the comparison group. That translates to a rate of 35 cases per 100,000 in the intervention group and 41 per 100,000 in the comparison group, the researchers said.
The study was published online recently in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
"Based on previous observational studies, we knew diet may play a role in the risk for pancreatic cancer in both men and women," said study first author Dr. Li Jiao. She is an associate professor of medicine-gastroenterology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
But no clinical trials have investigated whether changing diet can modify the risk, she added in a college news release. Instead, the researchers behind the new study analyzed data from the Women's Health Initiative, a major research project focused on health issues for postmenopausal women.
The analysis showed that "a low-fat diet was particularly effective in reducing pancreatic cancer risk in overweight and obese postmenopausal women," Jiao said.
A low-fat diet was not found to lower the disease risk for women whose weight was normal, however. The researchers said that merits further study.
In addition, Jiao said the findings may not apply to men.