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The health, function of the pancreas

GLENN ELLIS | 4/23/2018, 5:49 p.m.
Like many of you, more and more we are hearing about family, friends and loved ones facing a sudden issue ...
The pancreas and nearby organs Terese Winslow

Research from Johns Hopkins points to the fact that the incidence of pancreatic cancer is 50 to 90 percent higher in African Americans than in any other racial group in the United States. Not only is pancreatic cancer more common among African Americans, but African Americans also have the poorest prognosis of any racial group because they often are diagnosed with advanced, and therefore, inoperable cancer.

Many studies have been conducted to determine why there is an increased risk of pancreatic cancer among African Americans. These studies suggest that environmental and socioeconomic factors may be important. Cigarette smoking, which causes about 25 percent of pancreatic cancer, is more common among African Americans and therefore may partially explain why pancreatic cancer is more common in African Americans. Other risk factors for pancreatic cancer that are more common in African Americans include diabetes mellitus, pancreatitis and being overweight.

Treatment of pancreatic cancer is especially difficult because the location of the pancreas means that tumors tend to spread rapidly to highly innervated – rich in nerves – regions of the back and spine.

Diets high in meats, cholesterol, fried foods, and nitrosamines increase the risk of both pancreatic cancer and pancreatitis, while diets high in raw fruits and vegetables reduce risks. A new study, from the World Cancer Research Fund, found eating processed meats like bacon and sausage could increase your risk for deadly pancreatic cancer. For every piece of sausage or two strips of bacon a person eats every day, there’s a 19 percent rise in risk for pancreatic cancer, the study found. The bottom line is that a Mediterranean diet is “pancreas friendly.”

Now that we have a basic understanding of the pancreas, there are a few things we can do to help a healthy pancreas stay that way: keep your weight in the desirable range, don’t overload your body with sugar, get some exercise, and limit your alcohol consumption.

Remember, I’m not a doctor. I just sound like one.

Take good care of yourself and live the best life possible!

The information included in this column is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Glenn Ellis is a Health Advocacy Communications Specialist and is available through http://www.glennellis.com.