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Eating More Fiber May Reduce Pancreatic Cancer Risk

Foods rich in fiber

Results of a new study suggest that eating more fiber may reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer by as much as 60%. Not all types of fiber were found to provide the same protective effects, however.

Not all fiber protects against cancer

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal forms of cancer and one for which there is scant information about the effects of diet. This new study, which reportedly is the first to explore the impact of different types of fiber on the risk of pancreatic cancer, was conducted by a research team in Italy.

The study involved 326 patients with pancreatic cancer and 652 cancer free individuals. All the participants had completed questionnaires about their dietary intake.

The investigative team observed the following:

  • The greatest intakes of soluble fiber were associated with a 60% reduced risk of pancreatic cancer. Soluble fiber is the type that absorbs water and slows down the digestive process. Food sources include apples, beans, citrus fruit, barley, and oats.
  • Intake of insoluble fiber was linked to a 50% reduced risk. Insoluble fiber increases stool bulk and helps prevent constipation. Food sources include vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. It’s helpful to note that fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes (beans) typically contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, although individual foods frequently favor one or the other type.
  • Intake of lignin and cellulose may reduce risk of pancreatic cancer by 50 to 60%. Lignin is a component of fiber and is insoluble in water. Food sources include wheat and root vegetables. Cellulose also is a component of fiber and is the main factor in the cell walls of plants. Legumes, apple skin, nuts, and cabbage contain large amounts of cellulose.
  • Fruit fiber reduced the risk of pancreatic cancer by 50%, but grain fiber had no protective effect

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Other studies have examined the role of diet in pancreatic cancer. A new study published in Public Health Nutrition, for example, noted that protection against the risk of pancreatic cancer “has been associated with the regular consumption of wholegrain cereals and derived products.”

Another study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, reported on the possible role of folate in pancreatic cancer. The investigators followed 81,922 men and women and their dietary habits and reported that “Our results suggest that increased intake of folate from food sources, but not from supplements, may be associated with a reduced risk of pancreatic cancer.”

The National Cancer Institute estimates that nearly 44,000 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2012, and that more than 37,000 people will die of the disease. Researchers continue to look for ways to prevent and treat this deadly disease, and eating more fiber may be one such way to reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer.

Bidoli E, Pelucchi C, Zucchetto A et al. Fiber intake and pancreatic cancer risk: a case-control study. Annals Oncology 2012; 23(1): 264-68
Gil A, Ortega RM, Maldonado J. Wholegrain cereals and bread: a duet of the Mediterranean diet for the prevention of chronic diseases. Public Health Nutr 2011 Dec; 14(12): 2316-22
Larsson SC, Hakansson N, Giovannucci E. Wolk A. Folate intake and pancreatic cancer incidence: a prospective study of Swedish women and men. J Natl Cancer Inst 2006 Mar 15; 98(6): 407-13
National Cancer Institute

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