Can Antioxidants Prevent Pancreatic Cancer?

Pancreatic cancer risks lowered with higher antioxidant intake

July 23, 2012 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) A recent study found that if you consume high levels of vitamin C and take a multivitamin, your risks of liver cancer may be slightly higher. Now, forget all of that when it comes to pancreatic cancer.

British researchers suggested that consuming high amounts of antioxidants - including vitamins C, D, E and selenium - may substantially lower your risks of pancreatic cancer by as much as two-thirds.

"Go green with your diet."

Researchers from the Norfolk arm of the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC) study tracked the health of 23,500 individuals between the ages of 40 to 74 year old. They all had participated in the EPIC study between 1993 and 1997.

For seven days, the participants each kept a detailed food diary of everything they put in their mouths and how they prepared these foods. Specialized computer programs were used to analyze the nutrient make up of these foods.

Over a 10-year period, 49 of the 23,500 study participants developed pancreatic cancer. This represents an absolute risk of developing this cancer at .002 percent for this group. By 2010, 86 people had developed the disease which pushes the absolute risk to .003 percent.

People who were in the top 25 percent of those who consumed selenium, their risks were half (.001) of those people who got the bottom 25 percent of selenium.

Now in terms of the same metrics for vitamin C, D, E and selenium together, pancreatic cancer risks were shaved by 67 percent - which calculates to an absolute risk of .00134 percent.

According to the Mayo Clinic, foods that are rich in antioxidants include: berries, beans, nuts, herbs, fruits, vegetables, grains and chocolate.

The authors conclude that if the link turns out to be causal - that is if antioxidants help tamp down cancer - then one in 12 pancreatic cancers can be prevented.

“If a causal association is confirmed by reporting consistent findings from other epidemiological studies, then population based dietary recommendations may help to prevent pancreatic cancer,” they conclude.

Antioxidants are thought to neutralize the harmful effects of metabolism and perk up the immune system to keep out invaders.

The research was published July 23, in the journal Gut.

This research and analysis was supported by The Big C Cancer Charity, Norfolk; the original EPIC study was funded by The Medical Research Council, UK and Cancer Research, UK.

Authors reported no conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
July 23, 2012
Last Updated:
January 30, 2013