Another reason to give up: Smoking increases pancreatic cancer risk, study says

A new study has found smoking dramatically increases the risk of pancreatic cancer. Source: Pexels

While it has long been known that smoking can have a series of devastating health impacts, an alarming new study has highlighted just how deadly cigarettes can be when it comes to pancreatic cancer.

More than one in five future pancreatic cancers could be traced back to smoking, a new study published in the Medical Journal of Australia has found. Researchers have highlighted that most of these cancers could be prevented if current smokers gave up the habit.

For the latest study, researchers analysed the cancer and death registries to obtain data on 365,084 Australians and discovered that current and recent smoking explained 22 per cent of the future pancreatic cancer burden. It’s a big discovery, given pancreatic cancer is Australia’s fourth leading cause of cancer-related death in Australian men, and the fifth leading cause for women.

Worryingly, statistics show that there’s only a five-year survival rate of under 10 per cent. This is partly due to the fact that pancreatic cancer presents late when the disease is at an advanced stage. Because of this, researchers believe prevention is the best control strategy.

The authors of the study analysed data from the 365,084 adults to identify cases of pancreatic cancer and deaths. They discovered 604 incident cases of the cancer during the first 10 years of follow-up. Current and recent smoking explained 21.7 per cent of cases, while current smoking alone explained 15.3 per cent of future pancreatic cancer burden. This equates to 5,500 cases over the next decade.

“This proportion of the burden would be avoidable over 25 years were current smokers to quit and there were no new smokers, as pancreatic cancer risk remains elevated for 15 years after stopping smoking,” the study’s authors explained.

Meanwhile, the burden attributed to current smoking was greater for men than it was women, the study claimed. In fact, smoking in men was associated with a 23.9 per cent burden, while it was 7.2 per cent for women.

Former smokers who had quit less than 15 years ago were found to be at higher risk of pancreatic cancer than people who had never smoked.

“We estimate that 21.7 per cent of future pancreatic cancers in Australia are attributable to current and recent smoking,” lead author Maarit Laaksonen said. “The preventable burden attributable to current smoking is 15.3 per cent of all cases, or 5,500 cases over the next 10 years; the corresponding figures for lung cancers are 53.7 per cent (74,500 cases).”

The authors concluded that reducing the uptake and prevalence of smoking in Australia will reduce the future burden of pancreatic cancer.

Do you know someone who smokes? What are your thoughts on the findings of this study?

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