Fat stomach raises pancreatic cancer risk - Obese women 70 percent more likely to develop deadly disease, study finds

LONDON - Obese women who carry most of their extra weight around the stomach are 70 percent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, an international team of researchers reported.

The findings suggest are some of the first evidence that the link between obesity and pancreatic cancer is as strong in women as in men, Juhua Luo of Sweden's Karolinska Institute and colleagues reported in the British Journal of Cancer.

"We found that the risk of developing pancreatic cancer was significantly raised in obese postmenopausal women who carry most of their excess weight around the stomach," she said in a statement.

"Obesity is a growing and largely preventable problem, so it's important that women are aware of this major increase in risk."

Pancreatic cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death worldwide. It accounts for only about 2 percent of the cancers diagnosed each year but the first-year survival rate is less than 5 percent, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Stronger link for obese men, too
Until now, smoking and chronic pancreatitis were the most well-established risk factors for the disease in men and women, with much of the evidence also pointing to a stronger obesity link for men.

As part of a large study known as the Women's Health Initiative, Luo and colleagues followed more than 138,000 menopausal women in the United States for more than seven years to investigate the links between obesity and pancreatic cancer.

They found that 251 women developed the disease, and of these, 78 had the highest waist-to-hip ratios. After factoring in other risk factors, this was 70 percent more than the 34 women with the lowest excess stomach weight who got pancreatic cancer.

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