Metabolic Health is a Risk Factor for Pancreatic Cancer, Regardless of Obesity

Metabolic health may be a risk factor for the development of pancreatic cancer, independent of obesity, according to a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Obesity is a known risk factor for pancreatic cancer, but what is less clear is the effect of metabolism on cancer development. A Korean research team conducted a population-based cohort study to assess this relationship.

The investigators utilized health care data from the Korean National Health Insurance Service-Health Screening Cohort, enrolling 347,434 adults. Participants were divided into four groups based on metabolism status and body mass index (BMI): metabolically healthy normal weight (MHNW), metabolically unhealthy normal weight (MUNW), metabolically healthy obese (MHO), and metabolically unhealthy obese (MUO).

Patients were followed up for a median of 6.1 (5.5-6.5) years. Over this time, 886 individuals were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Compared to the MHNW phenotype, the adjusted hazard ratios (HR) for pancreatic cancer occurrence were 1.52 for the MUNW phenotype (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.27-1.81) and 1.34 for the MUO phenotype (95% CI, 1.12-1.61). Compared with the MHNW phenotype, the MHO phenotype did not have increased risk for pancreatic cancer.

“Regardless of BMI, metabolically unhealthy phenotype demonstrated significantly increased risk of pancreatic cancer, whereas obese individuals with metabolically healthy phenotype did not,” the researchers concluded. “These findings suggest that metabolically unhealthy phenotype might represent a potential risk factor for pancreatic cancer occurrence independently of obesity.”