Inflammatory potential of diet and pancreatic cancer risk in the EPIC study

Eur J Nutr. 2022 Aug;61(5):2313-2320. doi: 10.1007/s00394-022-02809-y. Epub 2022 Jan 29.


Purpose: There is existing evidence on the potential role of chronic inflammation in the pathogenesis of pancreatic cancer (PC) and on how risk may be modulated by dietary factors. Pro-inflammatory diets are suggested to be associated with increased risk of PC but, so far, evidence remains not conclusive. We examined the association between the dietary inflammatory potential and PC risk within the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study, which includes 450,112 participants.

Methods: After a 14-year follow-up, a total of 1239 incident PC cases were included in this study. The inflammatory potential of the diet was estimated using an Inflammatory Score of the Diet (ISD). Hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for the association between the ISD and PC were estimated using multivariable Cox regression models, adjusted for known risk factors for PC.

Results: Participants with higher ISDs had a higher risk of developing PCs. In the fully adjusted multivariate model, the risk of PC increased by 11% (HR 1.11, 95% CI 1.02-1.22) for 1 point each standard deviation increase in the ISD score. Neither obesity nor any other known risk factor for PC showed statistically significant interactions.

Conclusion: To the best of our knowledge, this is the first prospective study reporting a positive relationship between the inflammatory potential of diet and PC. Since early diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer might be challenging, prevention remains the major hope for reducing the burden of this disease.

Keywords: Dietary patterns; Epidemiology; Inflammatory potential of diet; Pancreatic cancer; Prospective cohort.

MeSH terms

  • Diet* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Status
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors