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Low levels of hormone may contribute to pancreatic cancer development

Category: Cancer Detection and Tumor Markers

A recent study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that a deficiency of a fat cell hormone known as adiponectin may heighten the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Adiponectin decreases levels of inflammation and boosts the sensitivity of insulin.

During the study, Ying Bao, M.D., Sc.D., an employee of the Brigham and Women's Hospital's Department of Medicine and Harvard Medical School, along with his colleagues, analyzed five cohort studies in which they compared 468 pancreatic cancer patients to 1,080 healthy subjects. The scientists looked at each individuals' age, smoking status, fasting status and the month that his or her blood was drawn. The results showed that there was a correlation between low adiponectin levels (along with a few other risk factors) and pancreatic cancer development.

"Our data provide additional evidence for a biological link between obesity, insulin resistance and pancreatic cancer risk and also suggest an independent role of adiponectin in the development of pancreatic cancer," noted the study authors.

Pancreatic cancer
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the pancreas, which is located behind the stomach, is responsible for making enzymes that allow the body to absorb fatty foods. The organ also produces the hormones insulin and glucagon, which are crucial for maintaining blood sugar levels. Physicians do not know what causes pancreatic cancer, but it is more commonly found in people who have diabetes, inflamed pancreases or smoking habits.

Some symptoms of pancreatic cancer include dark-colored urine and feces, fatigue, jaundice, nausea, vomiting, a lack of appetite and pain in the abdomen. Back pain, diarrhea, indigestion and blood clots may also occur. Other complications that may arise include depression, liver function issues, weight loss and infections.

In order to diagnose pancreatic cancer, patients may undergo a series of tests, such as an endoscopic ultrasound, abdomen MRI, biopsy, blood test and liver function test.

To prevent the condition, the NIH recommends that people abstain from smoking, eat a diet that's rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and exercise frequently.

While some pancreatic cancer can be cured or removed, the source notes that by the time the cancer has been detected in 80 percent of patients, it has spread to other parts of the body and cannot be extracted. For those who cannot have the cancer fully removed, there is usually a survival rate of less than one year. The NIH also reports that patients may receive post-surgery chemotherapy and radiation.


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