Pancreatic Cancer – What You Should Know

Nu Healings Nutrition Ottawa

While the exact cause of Pancreatic cancer is not known, as with most cancers, research has identified certain risk factors that may increase your chances of developing pancreatic cancer.  Several factors including smoking, nutrition, glucose levels, hormones and genetics are thought to be involved in the initiation and development.

While genetics may increase your chances (10-20%) for developing this cancer there is much that can be done to reduce that outcome.  About 40% of cases are associated with inflammatory conditions caused by poor nutrition, lack of exercise, alcohol consumption, chronic pancreatitis, obesity and some chemical exposure.  All of these are Modifiable risk factors; things you have control over.

Poor Nutrition: Diet plays a major role in the development of pancreatic cancer.  High consumption of fats from animal sources, saturated fats and oils, high cholesterol, high intake of omega-6 fatty acids, fried foods, meat and dairy products all clearly increase the risk.  Equally harmful is intake of excess calories, simple carbohydrates and processed meat (cold cuts, bacon etc.) which are sources of nitrites, nitrates and nitrosamines.

Lack of Exercise:  Overweight and obese people have a 20% increased risk of developing this disease compared to those of normal weight.

Having a high BMI and hyperinsulinemia often happens together and it is a well-known fact that insulin promotes pancreatic cancer growth and development.  Individuals who are overweight or obese earlier in life (20-49) can have earlier onset pancreatic cancer.  Obesity at a later age is associated with a lower overall survival for patients.

Pancreatitis: People with chronic pancreatitis (chronic inflammation) have an increased risk of developing this cancer and the risk increases for those with hereditary pancreatitis.  Chronic pancreatitis is also associated with heavy alcohol consumption.

Smoking: If you smoke, 30% of pancreatic cancers are linked with smoking and tobacco use.  The increased risk comes from cigarette, cigar and exposure to tobacco smoke.

Chemical Exposure: Exposure to chemicals such as DDT, formaldehyde, petroleum products, synthetic rubber, resins, polyesters, plastics and styrene are involved in causing pancreatic cancer.

Diabetes: Having diabetes for at least 5 years before diagnosis increases the risk of this cancer. While those with a more recent onset (within 3 years) have a 4 to 7 fold increased risk.

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Strategies for Reducing Pancreatic Cancer Risk/Recurrence

  • Stop smoking and drinking alcohol
  • Avoid or reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals and petroleum products
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Reduce your dietary intake of fried foods, red meat, meat products (such as cold cuts, bacon) and dairy
  • Increase your consumption of fresh vegetables, moderate, low glycemic fruit, fiber, minerals and vitamins
  • Reduce/eliminate all sugar consumption – Sugars of all kinds FEDD CANCER CELLS
  • Increase physical activity – start with low intensity (walk, stretching, beginners yoga, rebounding, swimming) if you are new to exercise and gradually increase to moderate intensity (brisk walk, faster swimming, running) at least three, 1 hour sessions per week. For moderate exercise your heart rate should be at 50-70% intensity.  To calculate, subtract your age from 220 and aim for 50-70% of that number.
  • Maintain a diet appropriate for diabetics that restricts simple carbohydrates such as sugars and emphasizes complex carbohydrates (fibre), non-animal sources of protein

For cancer patients who want to improve their odds of remission and long-term survival you should try to integrate as many of these guidelines as possible along with the following supplements, but only after consulting your doctor. 

Nutritional Supplement Therapy

Pancreatic Enzymes – These are essential for anyone with digestive issues or pancreatitis and critical for those with pancreatic cancer due to pancreatic insufficiency and the inability of the pancreas to make or secrete the enzymes it needs for proper digestion of foods.  This causes digestive issues and is a very common problem for cancer patients.  This deficiency also causes poor absorption of nutrients from food, weight loss, and severe malnutrition.

Fortunately, supplementing with enzymes can prevent this from happening and greatly improve quality of life.  Choose enteric coated or delayed release preparations taken at mealtimes.

Recommended Brands

Life Extension – Enhanced Super Digestive Enzymes

Trophic –Supreme Plus Fat Digestive Enzymes

VitaMost – Ultragest

Medications available by prescription only

Creon, Zenpep or Pancrease MT Capsules

Probiotics – Start taking a high potency probiotic (live bacteria).  This will help to increase your levels of good bacteria, help with digestion, diarrhea or constipation and stomach upset.  You will find these in the cooler section of your local Health Food Store – look for a Full Spectrum blend with at least 30 Billion Active Cells.  Ask the nutritionist on hand to help you out.  They must be kept refrigerated to maintain potency.

Dosage: As directed on the bottle

Fish oil – If you have experienced extreme weight loss due to your illness omega-3 fatty acids (EPA/DHA) along with nutritional support has been well established reverses tumor-related weight loss.  They can also prevent cancer progression and cause tumor cell death.  Ref: Wendel M, Heller AR. Anticancer actions of omega-3 fatty acids–current state and future perspectives. Anticancer Agents Med Chem 2009;9(4):457-470.

Aside from the above, fish oils are also important for brain and heart health.

Dosage: Start with at least 700 mg of EPA and 500mg DHA daily with food.  Dosage may be increased over time to twice daily.

Curcumin – Supplement daily with one of the most important, bioactive, anticancer compounds available.  It has been extensively researched for preventing and treating pancreatic and other cancers.

Dosage: 2400 mg daily

Genistein – (Soy extract) is an isoflavone extracted from soybeans and has been shown to inhibit cancer progression on many levels.

Dosage: 1750 mg twice daily with food

These are only a foundation and some individuals may need different dosages depending on their health situation.  If you have questions or require more information please contact