Risk of developing pancreatic cancer much higher for some groups in Hawaii

Risk of developing pancreatic cancer much higher for some groups in Hawaii
(Image: University of Hawaii Cancer Center)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Native Hawaiians and Japanese-Americans have much greater risks of developing pancreatic cancer than other ethnic groups, a new study concludes.

But why the risk is higher for those groups isn’t crystal clear.

The Multiethnic Cohort study, conducted by researchers at the UH Cancer Center and other institutions, looked at different ethnic groups and analyzed risk factors that contribute to pancreatic cancer.

It found that Native Hawaiians have a 60% greater risk of pancreatic cancer than European Americans, while Japanese Americans showed a 33% greater risk.

The study, which included over 20 years of data collected from more than 180,000 participants recruited from Los Angeles and Hawaii, categorized the participants as Japanese-Americans, Native Hawaiians, European-Americans, Latino-Americans and African-Americans.

Loic Le Marchand, UH Cancer Center epidemiologist and the MEC study co-author, said because there’s no early screening test for pancreatic cancer “it is important to identify risk factors that are modifiable, such as diet and lifestyle to prevent its occurrence.”

The UH Cancer Center Hawaii Tumor Registry reported more than 180 people die every year from pancreatic cancer, and over 220 people are newly-diagnosed.

“Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancers. It only has a five-year survival rate of 8%," Marchand said.

The UH Cancer Center said that of all the ethnic groups in Hawaii, Native Hawaiians have the highest mortality rate for the disease.

The study also showed that Native Hawaiians and African-Americans ate more red meat, were more likely to smoke, and had a higher chance of getting diabetes — all known risk factors for getting pancreatic cancer.

However, there could also be a genetic component involved.

“The fact that family history of pancreatic cancer was a stronger risk factor among Japanese-Americans than among European Americans suggests that genetics may play a more substantial role in defining risk between race/ethnicity groups,” the study concluded.

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