Pancreatic cancer is difficult to diagnose. Most of the time it is
discovered so late that death is almost imminent, but new research
shows this disease may be prevented if people can control their weight.
Roger Giles has pancreatic cancer. Most people with this
disease die within a year of their diagnosis, but Giles is betting
against the odds.
"My fullest intention is to overcome this
disease and move on with life, hopefully be prepared for surgery here
in the immediate future, and get on with my life," says Roger Giles.
Doctor Mohammed Kalan teaches surgery at the George Washington University School of Medicine.
there are no reliable, routine blood tests that can be done on a
regular basis to preemptively catch pancreatic cancer or catch it at an
early stage," says Dr. Mohammed Kalan.
Dr. Kalan says the location of the pancreas makes diagnosis especially difficult.
is a deep-seated organ, and a tumor in the pancreas can grow
considerably before a patient can have any symptoms," says Dr. Kalan.
The pancreas is partly hidden by the stomach.
is the only cure for early stage pancreatic cancer. So far, nothing can
cure later stages of this disease which is when it is usually diagnosed.
researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center say
there may be a way to help prevent it. Professor Donghui Li says there
is a link between a person's weight and pancreatic cancer.
evidence suggests that there is [an] association between being
overweight and obesity with the risk of pancreatic cancer," says
Professor Li compared information from more than
800 pancreatic cancer patients with 754 healthy people. She asked them
to recall their weight at various times in their lives.
study found those who were overweight as teens were twice as likely to
develop pancreatic cancer as their slimmer counterparts.
People who were obese as young adults had double the chance of developing this disease than adults who had never been obese.
Roger Giles was obese before his diagnosis. He acknowledges the role that his weight may have played in his illness.
"It's a terrible price to pay for being overweight," says Roger Giles.
study also found that being overweight was a factor in having a
diagnosis two to six years before other patients with pancreatic cancer
who were not overweight.
"Weight control at [an] early age, at young adulthood, is most important to reduce the risk of cancer," says Professor Li.
Li says the association between being overweight and pancreatic cancer
was stronger in men than in women. The research showed it was also
stronger in smokers than in those who had never smoked.
The study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.