New Study Reveals Rising Pancreatic Cancer Rates Among Women

The data analysis confirmed that the rates are increasing faster in young women — especially young Black women — than men in the same age group.

Pancreatic cancer affects the pancreas — a gland located in the abdomen that produces hormones such as insulin and digestive enzymes. Because it may have few noticeable symptoms, pancreatic cancer is often not diagnosed until it has reached an advanced stage, making treatment more challenging.

Current statistics suggest that pancreatic cancer is slightly more common in men than women and accounts for approximately 3% of all cancers in the US. Moreover, it is responsible for about 7% of all cancer deaths.

However, a new nationwide analysis — published on February 10 in the journal Gastroenterology — found that pancreatic cancer rates are on the rise, and are increasing faster in women than men.

Researchers from Cedars-Sinai Cancer discovered this concerning trend after analyzing pancreatic cancer data between 2001 and 2018 from the National Program of Cancer Registries (NCPR) database. This database includes about 64.5% of the U.S. population.

After reviewing the data, the investigators identified 454,611 people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

They also discovered that rates of pancreatic cancer increased among women and men. However, the rates among women under 55 years climbed 2.4% higher than among men in the same age group. In addition, the data showed that pancreatic cancer rates among young Black women were 2.23% higher than among Black men of the same age.

Moreover, pancreatic cancer mortality was unchanged in women but declining in men.

The scientists also noted that cancers located at the head of the pancreas and a rise in adenocarcinoma histopathological subtype — a more aggressive type of pancreatic cancer — may play a role in the rate increase.

According to a news release, people experiencing persistent abdominal pain may worry they have pancreatic cancer, but that’s usually a sign of another condition. However, individuals experiencing jaundice or unexplained weight loss should consider visiting their healthcare provider, as these can be signs of pancreatic cancer or other serious conditions.

"The data shows us a small increase in risk of pancreatic cancer," said senior author Srinivas Gaddam, M.D., associate director of Pancreatic Biliary Research at Cedars-Sinai in the news release. "And that awareness might refocus people on the need to stop smoking, reduce alcohol use, eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and manage their weight. These lifestyle changes all help decrease the risk of pancreatic cancer."


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