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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What are ways that can help prevent pancreatic cancer?

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  • 1

    Thanks

    Mr Dean Spilias

    Upper GI Surgeon (Abdominal)

    Dean graduated from the University of Melbourne in 1997 and went on to surgical training at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. During his residency he had … View Profile

    Unfortunately we don't yet know enough about the causes of pancreatic cancer to have reliable advice about the prevention of pancreatic cancer. 

    There is a link between smoking and pancreatic cancer, with smokers probably at two or three times the risk of non-smokers, but there are certainly many people who develop pancreatic cancer without ever smoking. 

    Obesity, diabetes, a high-fat diet, aniline dyes, pesticides, petroleum products, stomach bacteria (Helicobacter pylori) and chronic pancreatitis due to alcohol have also been linked to a higher chance of developing pancreatic cancer.

    Reversing these problems is good general health advice, but is unlikely to eliminate the chance of developing pancreatic cancer. Supplements such as selenium, vitamin C and vitamin E are not able to eliminate the risk of pancreatic cancer. A vegetarian diet does not prevent pancreatic cancer. 

    If there is a family history of pancreatic cancer, these lifestyle factors will not reverse any increased risk that may be present.  

    The best option at the moment is to combine a healthy lifestyle with regular screening for those at highest risk. Guidelines vary from place to place, but those at highest risk include people with two close relatives with pancreatitis, or with a cancer syndrome associated with pancreatitis such as hereditary pancreatitis (PRSSI mutation). 

    If you have specific concerns these are best put to your GP in the first case, if necessary with assistance from a hepatobiliary/pancreatic surgeon, or a cancer geneticist at a familial cancer clinic. A list of family cancer clinics can be found here: http://www.cancer.org.au/content/pdf/AboutCancer/FamilyCancer/Family_Cancer_Clinics_31OCT06.pdf

    Hope this helps!

    Dean Spilias
    http://uppergi.net

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