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Dietary habits and risk of pancreatic cancer: an Italian case–control study



To investigate the association between dietary habits and pancreatic cancer.


Between 1991 and 2008, we conducted a hospital-based case–control study in northern Italy. Cases: 326 patients (median age 63 years) with incident pancreatic cancer admitted to general hospitals in the areas of Milan and Pordenone, northern Italy. Controls: 652 patients (median age 63 years) with acute non-neoplastic conditions admitted to the same hospital network of cases. Diet was assessed using a validated food frequency questionnaire. Conditional logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios (OR) and the corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CI).


Frequent meat consumption was associated to a twofold increased risk of pancreatic cancer (95% CI: 1.18–3.36); the risk was significant for meat cooked by boiling/stewing or broiling/roasting. Added table sugar (OR = 2.23; 95% CI: 1.34–3.71) and potatoes (OR = 1.79; 95% CI: 1.12–2.86) were related to pancreatic cancer. An inverse association emerged for non-citrus fruits (OR = 0.41; 95% CI: 0.24–0.69), cooked vegetables (OR = 0.57; 95% CI: 0.36–0.92), and, possibly, for pulses (OR = 0.59; 95% CI: 0.35–1.00).


The present study supports an inverse association between fruits and vegetables and pancreatic cancer risk, and it confirms a direct relation with meat. The increased risk for table sugar suggests that insulin resistance may play a role in pancreatic carcinogenesis.

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The authors thank Mrs O. Volpato for study coordination and L. Mei for editorial assistance. We are also deeply grateful to Dr. S. Tumolo (Unit of Oncology, General Hospital, Pordenone) for helping in cases enrolment as well as to Drs. G. Chiara (I General Surgery Dep, General Hospital, Pordenone), L. Forner (Eye Diseases Dep., General Hospital, Pordenone), A. Mele (Hand Surgery and Microsurgery Dep., General Hospital, Pordenone), G. Tosolini (II General Surgery Dep., General Hospital, Pordenone), and E. Trevisanutto (Dermatology Dep., General Hospital, Pordenone) for providing control patients.

Financial support

This work was supported by a grant from A.I.R.C. (Italian Association for Cancer Research) and the Italian League against Cancer.

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Correspondence to Jerry Polesel.

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Polesel, J., Talamini, R., Negri, E. et al. Dietary habits and risk of pancreatic cancer: an Italian case–control study. Cancer Causes Control 21, 493–500 (2010).

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  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Risk factors
  • Diet
  • Meat
  • Vegetables
  • Added sugar