A new study in the October 28, 2010 issue of the journal Nature suggests that the growth of pancreatic cancer is a slow process and it takes almost 20 years for the disease to develop from a pancreatic cancer cell to a tumor, which spreads to other organs (metastasis) and eventually kills a patient in a couple of years.
Christine Iacobuzio-Donahue, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pathology and oncology at Hopkins' Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center and colleagues studied genetic mutations using genetic material collected from pancreatic cancer patients who died from the disease and determined the timing of the carcinogenesis.
Based on sophisticated mathematical models, they found it takes an average of 11.7 years for the first cancer cell to develop within a high grade pancreatic lesion, and then another 6.8 years for the cancer to grow and for at least another cancer cell to potentially spread and finally an average of 2.7 years for the disease to kill a patient.
Pancreatic cancer is so dangerous that 95 percent of patients who are diagnosed with the disease die within five years of diagnosis because the cancer is hard to be found early enough to be treated.
Iacobuzio-Donahue's study was to find a screening method to help detect pancreatic cancer at a time the disease is still treatable.
Bert Vogelstein, M.D., at the Ludwig Center for Cancer Genetics & Therapeutics at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center said the study results show "many pancreatic cancer cases have a long lag time before they are detected through conventional tests. This leaves room to develop new early, diagnostic tools and intervene with potentially curative surgery."
Although pancreatic cancer is dangerous, the risk for a person to acquire the disease may be reduced by following a healthy lifestyle. Quite some research conducted suggests that dietary habits were linked to pancreatic cancer.
Fruit and vegetables cut the risk while meat, sugar and high GI diet boosts the risk
A study published in Nov 2009 in Cancer Causes and Control suggests eating meat may increase risk of pancreatic cancer while eating fruit and vegetables may reduce the risk.