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Study Links Smoking to Increased Risk of Pancreatitis

Almost half of cases examined were attributable to tobacco use, researchers say

MONDAY, March 23, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Smoking may increase your risk of pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas that causes abdominal pain.

It's believed that gallstone disease and excess alcohol consumption can cause pancreatitis. Smoking is a suspected cause of pancreas damage, but it hasn't been clear whether smoking is an independent risk factor for pancreatitis, according to background information in a study by researchers in Denmark.

They analyzed about 20 years of data from 17,905 people to determine if smoking was associated with increased risk of acute or chronic pancreatitis. The researchers said that 58 percent of the 9,573 women and 68 percent of the 8,332 men were current smokers, 15 percent and 19 percent of men were ex-smokers, and 28 percent of women and 13 percent of men had never smoked.

By the end of the study, 113 women and 122 men had developed acute (160 cases) or chronic (97 cases) pancreatitis. Some of the participants developed both types. About 46 percent of pancreatitis cases were attributable to smoking, said the researchers, who concluded that smoking was an independent risk factor for the disease.

"Apart from the epidemiologic evidence of an association between smoking and development of acute and chronic pancreatitis, a biological effect of smoking seems plausible, because both animal studies and human studies have demonstrated changes of the pancreas and in pancreatic functioning after exposure to tobacco smoke," wrote Janne Schurmann Tolstrup, of the National Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, and colleagues.

The study appears in the March 23 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about pancreatitis.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, March 23, 2009
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