Study makes frightening obesity, pancreatic cancer link

Obesity causes many health problems, and now scientists are adding pancreatic cancer to the list.

According to reports, scientists found obesity can cause pancreatic cancer and make it hard to fight the disease.

"World-wide, it is the fourth-leading cancer killer in women and fifth-leading in men. It is very hard to find and fight the cancer until it spreads to other organs. That's why pancreatic cancer has at best a 4 to 5 percent survival rate," said Magesh Sundaram, MD, medical director at Carle Cancer Center. (pictured)

The research focused pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), the most common form of pancreatic cancer. Researchers discovered obesity can cause desmoplasia—scarring and inflammation caused by excess fat storage in organs.

When the body makes too much fat tissue, healthy tissues react with scarring. In the pancreas, it can lead to cancer.

Plus, the fat and scar build-up can prevent cancer-fighting drugs from reaching tumors.

"We evaluated the effects of obesity on numerous aspects of tumor growth, progression and treatment response in several animals … and confirmed our findings in samples from cancer patients," said co-senior author Dai Fukumura, associate professor of radiation oncology at Harvard Medical School, in Medical News Today interview.

Scientists hope to use this research to find biomarkers in pancreatic cancer patients and find new ways to treat the disease.

Dr. Sundaram noted, "This research does not mean all obese people will get pancreatic cancer. Still, it is another reason to lose weight."

Do these four things to help prevent pancreatic cancer:

  • Stop smoking. 
  • Eat a healthy diet. "A balanced diet of fats and sugars is OK, but many cancers thrive on too much fat and sugar," Sundaram said. 
  • Maintain a healthy weight. 
  • Get regular exercise.

People who want to live well can join find support to help them get started and keep up a healthy lifestyle.