Pancreatic cancer is one of the most difficult cancers to detect early on and treat effectively because many patients do not develop symptoms until they are in the advanced stages of the disease. The symptoms can sometimes be very vague, but they may include upper abdominal pain radiating through your back, changes in skin color, loss of appetite and weight loss. The causes of pancreatic cancer are not clearly understood; however there are risk factors for the disease such as chronic inflammation of the pancreases, diabetes, smoking, excessive alcohol abuse and some genetic syndromes.
A diagnosis can be made through imaging such as a CAT scans or an MRI, as well as through some endoscopic procedures that can evaluate the pancreas. Sometimes a biopsy is necessary to look at the tumor itself. Traditional treatment for pancreatic cancer may include surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Recently we’ve seen clinical trials with experimental gene therapies and new approaches to surgical options. However, despite medical advancements, the prognoses for pancreatic cancer patients in advanced stages is still very guarded. That is why I am very interested in a new study that investigated a possible link between vitamin D deficiency and an increased risk for pancreatic cancer.
Researchers at the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine gathered data from 107 countries, and found that those with the least amount of sunlight also had the highest rates of pancreatic cancer. Even after they took into consideration other factors that may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer like alcohol consumption, obesity and smoking, the strong correlation between cloud-cover and incidence of pancreatic cancer persisted.
Vitamin D is an essential, fat soluble vitamin that is found in certain foods and occurs naturally in the body when it is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D’s function is to help us use calcium, which is an essential element of good bone health. It also helps us to balance the equilibrium between calcium and phosphorus, which is a very important element for healthy cell function. Now, through this study, we also know that a lack of vitamin D is yet another possible factor to add to the etiology of pancreatic cancer.
*credit verbatim via http://www.foxnews.com and Dr. Manny Alvarez*