Background & aims: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) maintains a computerized file of all hospital discharges since 1970. In taking advantage of this large database, the present study aimed to determine whether pancreatitis is a risk factor for pancreatic cancer.
Methods: A case control study compared the occurrence of pancreatitis in 2639 patients with pancreatic cancer and a matched control group of 7774 subjects using multivariate conditional logistic regression.
Results: The odds ratio associated with pancreatitis increased from 2.04 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.53-2.72) 7 or more years before the first diagnosis of cancer to 2.14 (CI, 1.68-2.72) 3 or more years before cancer diagnosis and to 2.31 (CI, 1.87-2.86) 1 or more years before cancer diagnosis. In a multivariate analysis, all types of pancreatitis or chronic pancreatitis alone were associated with a significant risk, their odds ratios being 3.42 (CI, 1.98-5.91) and 2.23 (CI, 1.43-3.49), respectively. No influence was exerted by other variables, such as history of gallstone disease or alcoholism, frequency of hospital discharges with pancreatitis, and length of coverage in the VA system.
Conclusions: A history of pancreatitis constitutes a significant risk for subsequent development of pancreatic cancer. The increase of the risk with decreasing time before the diagnosis of cancer may indicate that a fraction of pancreatic cancers are initially misdiagnosed as pancreatitis.