Dietary fat and the development of pancreatic cancer

Lipids. 1992 Oct;27(10):804-6. doi: 10.1007/BF02535854.


Pancreatic cancer is the fifth most common cause of death due to cancer. Except for an association with cigarette smoking, its etiology is poorly understood. Because of the dearth of epidemiological clues as to causation, studies with experimental animal models assume greater importance. Rodent models of pancreatic cancer indicate that while dietary fat per se does not cause pancreatic cancer, it does enhance or promote tumor development. Subsequent to treatment with a pancreatic carcinogen, high intakes of dietary unsaturated fats of the n-6 series, but not saturated fats, enhance or promote tumor development. A requisite level of linoleic acid is needed for this promotion. Fats of the n-3 series (e.g., certain fish oils) are inhibitory to tumor growth. Promotion by dietary fats appears only partly related to the high caloric content of fat. Mechanistically, certain dietary unsaturated fats appear to selectively enhance the growth rate of carcinogen-induced, pre-cancerous lesions. Irrespective of precise understanding of mechanisms of promotion, it appears possible to intervene in the process of cancer development and reduce the burden of cancer. Experimentally, this may be accomplished by decreasing total fat intake, decreasing caloric intake, increasing exercise or increasing the intake of n-3 fatty acids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dietary Fats / adverse effects*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Energy Intake
  • Fish Oils / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Physical Exertion
  • Rats


  • Dietary Fats
  • Fish Oils