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Expat Health Insurance News: High-fat diet 'speeds up pancreatic cancer development'

While many expatriates could avoid having a diet that is high in calories and fat in the face of extensive international healthcare research indicating that this poses health risks, a new study has shown it can also speed up the development of pancreatic cancer.

Results were presented at the Pancreatic Cancer: Progress and Challenges conference of the American Association for Cancer Research, with investigations taking place at the University of California, Los Angeles' (UCLA) David Geffen School of Medicine.

Mice at the facility that had a genetic variation causing them to develop a precancer of the pancreas were given a diet based on corn-oil, which has a high calorie and fat content.

The biological mechanism for their heightened tumour risk is the gene KRAS, which is also mutated in most cases of pancreatic cancers in humans.

A total of 90 per cent of the mice in the study became obese, with all of these developing an inflammation of the pancreas and resistance to insulin.

These two ailments are known to promote the growth of cancer and precancerous cells.

Furthermore, mice fed a normal diet were found to have considerably fewer precancerous lesions than those who were given corn-oil based foodstuffs.

While epidemiological studies in humans have already associated obesity and high-fat food intake with elevated risks of pancreatic cancers, the mechanism that causes this link has not yet been detailed.

"A KRAS mutation in the pancreas might not be sufficient to cause an individual to develop pancreatic cancer. It likely needs something in addition – a secondary hit," associate professor in the department of surgery at the UCLA facility Dr Guido Eibl said.

"Our study showed that a high-fat, high-calorie diet could provide an environmental secondary hit and trigger cancer development," he added.

Common symptoms of pancreatic cancer are stomach pains, jaundice, weight loss, lack of appetite and pains in the back.

Other common problems associated with the condition include ailments relating to diabetes, itching, fever, shivering, changes to bowel habits and sickness.

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