photo walkheader_zpsd5bunpmi.png

Three Things that Aren’t True About Pancreatic Cancer

“Half the lies they tell about me aren’t true.”    -Yogi Berra

There are legitimate controversies in pancreatic cancer.  Often over time, the pendulum can swing to one side or the other of a scientific conflict – as new evidence supports a contention or not.  Sometimes, with a greater understanding of the complexity of an issue, both sides can even turn out to be right – or wrong.

For example, one legitimate controversy that has been raging for over a decade now, is whether adding radiation to chemotherapy will help increase patient survival after receiving surgery for pancreatic cancer (ductal adenocarcinoma of the pancreas). There are some interesting recent studies on this topic but the issue is not yet fully resolved.

Below are discussions of recent studies on THREE such issues that have been matters of some inquiry and even controversy in pancreatic cancer. These results are not presented as definitive (as the pendulum never fully settles in real science) but they are fairly compelling – for now.

We should probably herewith highly complement the authors of these studies – as often studies that don’t show a “positive” outcome tend NOT to get published.  This phenomenon results in what is called publication bias, and represents a skewing of reality through an inadvertent withholding of what is deemed worthy of being published – and therefore distorts the meaning of the medical literature.  Increasingly, we at Pancreatica have noticed that authors have more recently been bucking this trend, and commendably have started often publishing studies that do not have what are seen as positive results.

Coffee intake is not a causative element for pancreatic cancer       European and Malaysian researchers published work in the November 2013 issue of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the journal of the American Gastroenterological Association. The researchers examined data from the European Prospective Investigation into Nutrition and Cancer, and found NO association between coffee, decaffeinated coffee or tea intake and the risk of pancreatic cancer.

Helicobacter pylori (bacteria) is not a cause of pancreatic cancer       Researchers from the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics of the U.S. National Cancer Institute E-published an article on October 2, 2013 for the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a publication (in part) of the American Association for Cancer Research. These authors in a nested case-control study looked at a group of Finnish males in the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study, and found no association between H. pylori antigen status (bacteria associated with peptic ulcer disease) in the subjects’ serum and the risk of pancreatic cancer.

Metformin exposure does not increase survival in pancreatic cancer       Yang and colleagues from the University of Pennsylvania published the results of a retrospective cohort study in the October issue of the journal Pancreas using data from The Health Improvement Network.  The authors found that there was no difference of overall survival in those with pancreatic cancer who were exposed or not exposed to the diabetes drug: metformin.

More here (coffee)

More here (H. pylori)

More here (metformin)


Dale O’Brien, MD