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Healthy Eating May Reduce Pancreatic Cancer Risk

Purple Sweet PotatoesEating a diet filled with fruit, vegetables, and legumes along with recommended amounts of fish, poultry and other meat may reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer, suggests a large new study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States..

Previous research on diet's link to pancreatic cancer has produced inconsistent findings. AICR’s report and its continuous updates show that excess body fat increases the risk of pancreatic cancer.

In this study, researchers analyzed data from over half a million participants who were followed for more than ten years and who, at baseline, had answered questions about what they ate over the previous year. Participants were ages 50 to 71 when the study began. The study used a standard measure of diet called the Healthy Eating Index to calculate a score based on how closely each person followed the government's dietary guidelines. For example, someone who ate slightly more than a cup of vegetables a day for every 1,000 calories earned the maximum score of five points for that category, whereas eating no vegetables resulted in a score of zero.

After an average of 10.5 years, those who ate the healthiest – best met the dietary guidelines – had a 15 percent lower risk of pancreatic cancer, compared to those who least met the dietary guidelines. This was after the researchers took into account other risk factors, including diabetes, weight and smoking.

The authors note that healthful diets may also be linked with other healthy behaviors or traits that the study did not fully account for.

Source: Hannah Arem et al. "The Healthy Eating Index 2005 and Risk of Pancreatic Cancer in the NIH–AARP Study."  JNCI J Natl Cancer Inst (2013). First published online: August 15, 2013.

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