Pancreatic Cancer News You Can't Use
A new study in the Journal of the American Cancer Institute shows that people with certain blood types may be more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, one of the most deadly of all malignancies.
Specifically, folks with type O blood face the lowest risk for pancreatic cancer, while those with type B blood have the worst risk -- 72 percent higher than those with type O. Those with type A blood have a 32-percent higher risk than those with type O, and those with type AB have 52 percent higher risk of developing the disease. (Negative and positive blood types didn't figure in the study.)
Adjusted for age, the incidence of pancreatic cancer per 100,000 person-years was 27 for those with type O blood, 36 for type A, 41 for type AB, and 46 for type B.
(According to the American Red Cross, distribution of blood types varies by ethnicity; 40 percent of Asians in America have type O blood, while 57 percent of Hispanics, 51 percent of African Americans and 45 percent of whites do. Type A is the next most common type, followed by type B. Type AB is overall the rarest: just 2.2 percent of Hispanics, 4 percent of Whites, 4.3 percent of African-Americans, and 7.1 percent of Asians have this type.)
So now what? It's not like you can change your blood type.
Women who learn that they carry gene variations that increase their risk of breast cancer can consider prophylactic mastectomy. Even the recent news that moderate drinking raises pancreatic cancer risk is actionable: you can cut back on your alcohol consumption.
But what if you have Type B blood? Should you have your pancreas removed -- thus inducing life-long diabetes -- just in case? Experts would agree: Of course not, especially because the new findings' implications aren't yet fully understood.
In fact, the study's authors acknowledge that this new information is practically useless in a clinical sense right now but may help scientists develop much-needed screening tests for pancreatic cancer. One of the reasons the disease kills nearly all its victims (more than 34,000 of them a year in the U.S.) so quickly is that it's famously hard to detect until it's too advanced for treatment to make a difference.
A screening test would be a great development, to be sure. In the meantime, though, this news falls squarely into the category of things I'd just as soon not know.
How about you?
Jennifer LaRue Huget
March 13, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Alcohol and Drugs , Cancer , General Health , Prevention
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