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Racial Disparities in Pancreatic Cancer Risk Explored

Study suggests the disease may target certain subgroups differently

THURSDAY, Sept. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Known risk factors for pancreatic cancer do not explain why incidence of the disease is substantially higher in African-Americans versus Caucasians, according to a study published online Sept. 1 in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Lauren D. Arnold, Ph.D., of Washington University in St. Louis, and colleagues analyzed data on a cohort of 1,011,864 Caucasians and 48,525 African-Americans, of whom 6,243 died of pancreatic cancer. They evaluated the deaths based on known risk factors for the disease.

For smokers, the risk of pancreatic cancer was over 60 percent higher regardless of race. A significant association was seen between obesity and pancreatic cancer mortality for African-American men (hazard ratio, 1.66), Caucasian men (hazard ratio, 1.42), Caucasian women (hazard ratio, 1.37), and null for African-American women, the researchers found. The population-attributable risk was 24.3 percent in Caucasians and 21.8 percent in African-Americans due to smoking, family history, cholecystectomy, diabetes and obesity.

"Variation in the effect of overweight/obesity was most evident when comparing sex-race subgroups," the authors write. "The suggestion that such risk factors affect race-sex subgroups differently may have implications for targeting risk reduction messages and interventions. The inability to attribute excess risk of disease in blacks to currently accepted or speculative risk factors points to other, yet to be determined, etiologic factors that play a role in the disease process."

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