Two people in my neighborhood have pancreatic cancer, and my favorite actor Patrick Swayze died of it. What is going on? What do you know about this and how can we protect ourself?
–E.D. New York City
Answer: It’s among the top 5 leading cancers in the United States, it’s extremely aggressive and surprisingly, more than 250,000 people die of it worldwide. I was very sad when Dirty Dancing star, Patrick Swayze died from it recently.
With cancer, there are many factors at play, but no single smoking gun. If you have diabetes, gallbladder disease, Celiac disease or liver damage, your risk of pancreatic cancer is higher. There are also many household items and foods that increase your risk for pancreatic disease, so here are 6 things I want you to get rid of:
Hard liquor and alcohol. It’s a liquid bullet aimed for your liver and pancreas. Alcohol causes free radical damage which increases risk for pancreatitis, which often precedes cancer of the pancreas. Don’t trade in your pancreas for your heart by drinking alcohol every night.
Cigarettes. Just like alcohol, cigarettes spark loose cannons in your body that destroy healthy cells and promote the growth of cancerous ones. A 2004 study in Cancer proved that tobacco was an environmental trigger for pancreatic cancer in predisposed patients.
Soda and Foods that contain HCFS: ‘High fructose corn syrup’ is a very concentrated sweetener that forces your pancreas to secrete a truckload of insulin in order to neutralize the blood sugar spike that occurs after consumption. High insulin blood levels increase your risk of many diseases, including pancreatic cancer. In fact, there is an undeniable link between high insulin (as well as insulin-resistance) with pancreatic cancer according to a 2005 JAMA study.
Several weeks ago, I wrote a detailed column diseases caused by high insulin, which is posted at www.DearPharmacist.com. The second reason I want you to get rid of items containing HCFS is because it causes obesity. Obesity affects levels of two other hormones called leptin and adiponectin. When those two hormones fall out of balance, it appears that your risk for pancreatic cancer increases. Besides, obesity is an absolute risk factor for pancreatic cancer.
Non-stick pots. Animal studies show that a chemical called PFOA is tied to cancer. Studies conflict, however some experts feel that non-stick pots are a source of this chemical. Until we are sure, it’s safer to cook with stainless steel.
Soft plastics that contain phthalates (like teething rings, water bottles): There are numerous research articles that link phthalates to cancer, including prostate, breast and pancreatic cancer.
Animal and trans fats. A study in the June 2009 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found a direct relationship between pancreatic cancer and dairy or red meat-derived fats.
Did You Know?
The herb curcumin may benefit people with pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer.