Obesity, pancreatitis, and pancreatic cancer

Obes Surg. 2008 Sep;18(9):1183-7. doi: 10.1007/s11695-008-9599-3. Epub 2008 Jun 19.


The only universally accepted risk factors for the development of pancreatic cancer are a positive family history or a history of smoking. Although the contribution of pancreatitis to pancreatic carcinogenesis has been debated for decades in the epidemiology literature, the actual mechanism is still unclear. With the rising epidemic of obesity, scientists have begun to focus on the contribution of chronic inflammatory state of morbidly obese patients in an effort to better understand the contribution of inflammation to the comorbidities of obesity. Notably, population studies are beginning to show that one of the most serious potential comorbidities of obesity is an increased lifetime risk of developing cancer. In this article, the current literature that exists supporting this Chronic Inflammatory Hypothesis as it pertains to obesity and pancreatic carcinogenesis is reviewed. To date, studies have focused on interleukin-6, a cytokine known to play a role in obesity, chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. The anti-inflammatory adipocytokine, adiponectin, has also shown promise as a key player in this mechanism and has recently been found to be more specific than standard tumor markers in differentiating pancreatic cancer from chronic pancreatitis. If the pathogenesis of pancreatic cancer is related to hormone levels associated with obesity, such as adipocytokines, and cytokines associated with chronic inflammation, this could potentially lead to the development of new pancreatic cancer tumor markers and ultimately new therapies and methods of prevention.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipokines / physiology
  • Cachexia / etiology
  • Cytokines / physiology
  • Humans
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Pancreatitis / complications*
  • Pancreatitis / pathology


  • Adipokines
  • Cytokines