Certain Micronutrients Lowers Risk of Pancreatic Cancer

Source: Annals of Oncology

Pancreatic cancer is a disease in which malignant cells are found in the tissue of the pancreas. In 2009 in the United States there were 42,470 new cases and 35,240 die from the disease. The prognosis is relatively poor but has improved; the three-year survival rate is now about thirty percent (according to the Washington University School of Medicine), but less than 5 percent of those diagnosed are still alive five years after diagnosis. Complete remission is still rare. Pancreatic cancer is sometimes called a "silent killer" because early pancreatic cancer often does not cause symptoms, and the later symptoms are usually non-specific and varied. Therefore, pancreatic cancer is often not diagnosed until it is advanced.

Folic acid (also known as folate) is a member of the water-soluble B vitamin group. Isolated in 1946 from spinach leaves, its name comes from folium, the Latin word for leaf. In the body, folic acid is converted to a more biologically active form. Folate has many clinical applications such as: Alzheimer’s disease, alcoholism, atherosclerosis, birth defects, cervical dysplasia, cognitive enhancement, depression, gingivitis, pregnancy and lactation. Folic acid is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies. Vitamin E is actually a group of eight compounds including four tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma, and delta) and four additional tocotrienol derivatives. Alpha tocopherol is the most common and the most potent form. It is what is usually meant by the term vitamin E. Pure vitamin E compounds are easily oxidized, so they are manufactured as acetate or succinate esters. Earlier research has shown an association between vegetable and fruit consumption and pancreatic cancer, but there has been no consistency in the identification of certain components in these foods. Scientists from the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Milan, Italy investigated the role of 15 vitamins and carotenoids and 6 minerals play in preventing pancreatic cancer. They surveyed 326 patients with pancreatic cancer and 652 controls by having the participants fill out a food-frequency questionnaire. The results were the highest quintile of intake of vitamin E, vitamin C, folate and potassium were less likely to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer compared to those with the lowest quintile intake of the nutrients. These findings suggest vitamins E and C, selected carotenoids, and folate play a role in the prevention of pancreatic cancer.(1)

1.    Bravi F, Polesel J, Bosetti C, et al. Dietary intake of selected micronutrients and the risk of pancreatic cancer: an Italian case-control study. Ann Oncol. 2010

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