Diets rich in selenium, vitamin D, and vitamin E could prevent pancreatic cancer. High intakes of all three nutrients reduced pancreatic cancer risk by 67% among participants in a new study.
Researchers from the UK analyzed the diets 23,658 people aged 40-74 years old. Participants underwent baseline medical examinations, serum blood tests, and completed an extensive seven-day food dairy. Data from food diaries were entered into a computer program that measures nutrient intake. By the follow-up test ten years later, 49 participants had developed pancreatic cancer (55% of those affected were men). Researchers then calculated the relationship between cancer risk and nutrient intake.
Selenium halved pancreatic cancer risk and vitamin E led to a smaller but still significant reduction in pancreatic cancer. Vitamin C had an inverse association with serum but the relationship wasn’t statistically significant. Combining intakes of all three nutrients had the strongest effect in minimizing pancreatic cancer risk.
More research is needed to confirm this casual relationship. The study only tracked what participants ate for seven days, and since diets fluctuate with time, a study with frequent food analyses could provide a more accurate depiction of participants’ diets. If these findings are confirmed in other studies, researchers estimated that 1 in 12 cancers could be prevented. They suggested that people at risk of pancreatic cancer may benefit from high intakes of the vitamin D, vitamin E, and selenium.
Researchers explained that the nutrients contain antioxidants that could contribute to reducing cancer risk by stimulating the immune system to reduce oxidative stress and inactivate free radicals. Other antioxidants have been linked to reducing risk of cognitive decline, dementia, and stroke.
Banim P, Luben R, McTagger A, et al. Dietary antioxidants and the aetiology of pancreatic cancer: a cohort study using data from food diaries and biomarkers. Gut 2012; doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2011-301908.