Pancreatic cancer: A critical review of dietary risk

Asmaa A. Salem, Gerardo Mackenzie

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Pancreatic cancer is a deadly disease. It is estimated that about 90% of pancreatic cancer cases are due to environmental risk factors. Among these, approximately 50% of pancreatic cancer cases may be attributed to diet, which is largely modifiable. Given this large attribution to diet, there have been numerous epidemiological studies assessing the risk of various dietary factors on the incidence of pancreatic cancer. However, many of these studies present conflicting and/or inconclusive findings. The objective of this review is two-fold: (a) to summarize the current evidence on the association between various dietary factors and the risk of developing pancreatic cancer and (b) to discuss what additional studies are needed to better elucidate the role of diet as a potential risk factor for pancreatic cancer. We summarized the evidence by using data primarily from meta-analyses and pooled analysis when available, focusing on the most studied nutrients, foods, and dietary patterns. We observed that, while the association between individual nutrients and pancreatic cancer risk have been heavily studied, the evidence is mostly conflicting and inconclusive. In contrast, the evidence of certain associations among dietary patterns and pancreatic cancer risk is clearer, has more power, and is less conflicting. Therefore, we propose a shift in the focus of nutritional epidemiological research with regards to pancreatic cancer risk. We discourage further epidemiological research studies that focus on single nutrients, whereas we strongly encourage additional studies that investigate how a combination of diet and other lifestyle factors may promote or prevent pancreatic carcinogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalNutrition Research
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018


  • Diet
  • Foods
  • Nutrients
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer risk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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