Background: Meat intake has been associated with risk of exocrine pancreatic cancer, but previous findings have been inconsistent. This association has been attributed to both the fat and cholesterol content of meats and to food preparation methods. We analyzed data from the prospective Multiethnic Cohort Study to investigate associations between intake of meat, other animal products, fat, and cholesterol and pancreatic cancer risk.
Methods: During 7 years of follow-up, 482 incident pancreatic cancers occurred in 190,545 cohort members. Dietary intake was assessed using a quantitative food frequency questionnaire. Associations for foods and nutrients relative to total energy intake were determined by Cox proportional hazards models stratified by gender and time on study and adjusted for age, smoking status, history of diabetes mellitus and familial pancreatic cancer, ethnicity, and energy intake. Statistical tests were two-sided.
Results: The strongest association was with processed meat; those in the fifth quintile of daily intake (g/1000 kcal) had a 68% increased risk compared with those in the lowest quintile (relative risk = 1.68, 95% confidence interval = 1.35 to 2.07; Ptrend < .01). The age-adjusted yearly incidence rates per 100,000 persons for the respective quintiles were 41.3 and 20.2. Intakes of pork and of total red meat were both associated with 50% increases in risk, comparing the highest with the lowest quintiles (both Ptrend < .01). There were no associations of pancreatic cancer risk with intake of poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs, total fat, saturated fat, or cholesterol. Intake of total and saturated fat from meat was associated with statistically significant increases in pancreatic cancer risk but that from dairy products was not.
Conclusion: Red and processed meat intakes were associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. Fat and saturated fat are not likely to contribute to the underlying carcinogenic mechanism because the findings for fat from meat and dairy products differed. Carcinogenic substances related to meat preparation methods might be responsible for the positive association.