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Drinking, Smoking Linked to Pancreatic Cancer

Heavy drinkers and smokers may develop pancreatic cancer around a decade earlier than others, say researchers.

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Yet another reason to cut back. Photo via

By Valerie Tejeda

09/19/12

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Drinking and smoking seem to be linked to earlier development of pancreatic cancer, indicates a new study. Pancreatic cancer is reportedly causing a growing number of deaths, partly because of the difficulty of early detection, and claimed the lives of Steve Jobs and Patrick Swayze among many others. Doctors still aren't certain what causes it, but there's now evidence, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, that smoking and heavy drinking raises the risk of developing it sooner. “If you do have these habits, and you're going to develop pancreatic cancer, the age of presentation may be younger,” says lead researcher Dr. Michelle A. Anderson of the University of Michigan Health System. The researchers studied 811 patients in a pancreatic cancer registry. According to the American Cancer Society, the risk for developing pancreatic cancer is about one in 71 and occurs at an average age of 72. But the heavy drinkers and smokers in the study were diagnosed around a decade earlier. While the findings don't prove that smoking and drinking causes earlier cancer, the researchers did discover a “dose” effect—meaning that those who smoked over a pack a day were diagnosed younger age than those who smoked less. And those who'd refrained from heavy drinking and smoking for over 10 years had a reduced risk. Researchers hope the study will give people yet another reason to make healthier choices. As Anderson says, “That's potentially an extra decade of life.”  

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