According to the results of a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, higher dietary intake of flavonols (compounds found in many plant foods) may reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer, particularly among smokers. These results were previously presented at the 2007 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.
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-such as quercetin, kaempferol, and myricetin-are a class of flavonoids (plant chemicals found in fruits, vegetables, tea, and red wine). Major food sources of flavonols include onions, apples, blueberries, kale, and broccoli.
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 with 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 flavonols may reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer, particularly among smokers.
Reference: Nöthlings U, Murphy SP, Wilkens LR, Henderson BE, Kolonel LN. Flavonols and pancreatic cancer risk: The Multiethnic Cohort Study. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2007;166:924-931.