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Very Heavy Drinking Risk Factor for Chronic Pancreatitis

Alcohol and smoking are risk factors for the disease, but minority of patients are heavy drinkers

TUESDAY, June 9 (HealthDay News) -- Although alcohol and tobacco consumption are risk factors for chronic and recurrent acute pancreatitis, only a minority of patients are heavy drinkers, according to a study published in the June 8 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Dhiraj Yadav, M.D., of the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues analyzed data from the North American Pancreatitis Study 2 comprising 540 chronic pancreatitis patients, 460 recurrent acute pancreatitis patients, and 695 controls enrolled via 20 U.S. centers. The subjects were classified according to alcohol consumption, from abstainers to very heavy drinkers, and according to smoking status.

Among controls and both groups of patients, approximately a quarter were lifetime abstainers of alcohol, while very heavy drinking was reported by 38.4 percent of the men and 11.0 percent of the women with chronic pancreatitis, 16.9 percent of the men and 5.5 percent of the women with recurrent acute pancreatitis, and 10.0 percent of female and 3.6 percent of male controls, the investigators discovered. After controlling for many factors, very heavy drinking had a significant association with chronic pancreatitis compared to abstaining from alcohol and light drinking. The authors further note that smoking was also an independent risk factor for both chronic and recurrent acute pancreatitis.

"While our study confirms very heavy alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking as independent predictors of chronic pancreatitis, it also demonstrates that the majority of chronic pancreatitis subjects seen at U.S. referral centers are not alcoholics and that many, in fact, are abstainers," the authors conclude.

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