"The results suggest that carcinogenic substances related to meat preparation, rather than their inherent fat or cholesterol content, might be responsible for the association," said Ute Nthlings, DrPH, MSE, the study's lead investigator from the Cancer Research Center at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu.
Meat consumption has been linked to pancreatic cancer in several case-control studies in the past, but the results have been inconsistent and data from prospective studies has been lacking.
For this study, researchers from the Cancer Research Center and USC examined the relationship of diet to pancreatic cancer among 190,545 men and women of African-American, Japanese-American, Caucasian, Latino and Native Hawaiian origin who were part of the Multiethnic Cohort Study in Hawaii and Los Angeles. An average follow-up of seven years yielded 482 incident cases of pancreatic cancer.
The researchers found that the heavy consumption of processed meats resulted in the highest risk for pancreatic cancer, after adjusting for age, smoking status, history of diabetes, familial history of pancreatic cancer and ethnicity. Those who consumed the greatest amount of processed meats had a 67 percent increase in risk over those participants with the lowest intake of this food category. A diet rich in pork and red meat also increased pancreatic cancer risk by about 50 percent, compared to their counterparts who ate less meat.
Consumption of poultry, fish, dairy products and eggs showed no link to pancreatic cancer risk, nor did overall intake of total fat, saturated fat, or cholesterol.