According to the results of a study presented at the 2007 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), higher intake of flavonols (compounds found in many plant-based foods) may reduce the risk of developing pancreatic cancer, particularly in smokers.
The pancreas is an organ surrounded by the stomach, small intestine, bile ducts (tubes that connect the liver to the small intestine), gallbladder, liver, and spleen. The pancreas helps the body break down food and produces hormones, such as insulin, to regulate the body’s storage and use of food.
Pancreatic cancer has one of the highest mortality rates of all cancers. Pancreatic cancer is often called a “silent killer” because its symptoms are usually not recognizable until it has advanced and spread outside the pancreas. As a result, the majority of pancreatic cancers are not diagnosed until they have reached advanced stages and are considered incurable. Because of the generally poor prognosis of pancreatic cancer, it is important to identify effective approaches to prevention.
Flavonols are present in many plant-based foods, but tend to occur at the highest concentrations in onions, apples, berries, kale, and broccoli. Different classes of flavonols include quercetin (most abundant in onions and apples); kaempferol (found in spinach and some cabbages); and myricetin (found in red onions and berries).
To assess the link between flavonols and risk of pancreatic cancer, researchers evaluated information from The Multiethnic Cohort Study. This study enrolled close to 200,000 residents of California and Hawaii.
- Compared to study participants with the lowest flavonol intakes, study participants with the highest flavonol intakes were 23% less likely to develop pancreatic cancer.
- Smokers-a group at increased risk of pancreatic cancer-appeared to derive the greatest benefit from higher flavonol intakes. Compared to smokers with the lowest flavonol intakes, smokers with the highest flavonol intakes were 59% less likely to develop pancreatic cancer.
- Of the three classes of flavonols evaluated, kaempferol was linked with the greatest reduction in risk across all study participants.
The researchers conclude that these results provide evidence that flavonols may reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer.
Reference: Nöthlings U, Murphy SP, Wilkens LR, Henderson BE, Kolonel LN. Flavonols and pancreatic cancer risk: The Multiethnic Cohort Study. Presented at the 2007 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, Los Angeles, CA, April 14-18, 2007. Abstract 856.
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