In a study of 144 patients with pancreatic cancer and 429 people without the disease, a subset of patients with low blood levels of a protein called IGFBP-1 (insulin-like growth factor binding protein one) were at approximately twice the risk of developing pancreatic cancer, say researchers of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in a new report. Low blood levels of this protein have previously been linked to excess weight and lack of physical activity. These data originated from tens of thousands of men and women enrolled in four large-scale cohort studies - all of which followed the health of participants over numerous years.

“The prognosis for many patients with pancreatic cancer remains poor, so it is vitally important that we identify and better understand risk factors for the disease, particularly risk factors that are modifiable” said lead study author, Brian M. Wolpin, M.D., attending physician at Dana Farber Cancer Institute. “In addition to cigarette smoking, exercise and weight control appear to be important modifiable risk factors for this difficult disease.”

To study the relationship between IGFBP-1 and pancreatic cancer, Wolpin and his colleagues chose pancreatic cancer patients enrolled in one of the four cohort studies and with blood drawn four or more years before developing cancer. The blood levels of IGFBP-1 from these patients were compared to those taken from 429 cancer-free people also enrolled in one of the cohort studies. According to their findings, patients with low blood levels of IGFBP-1 were nearly twice as likely to develop pancreatic cancer.

But, Wolpin admits: “We still have much to learn about the mechanisms by which obesity and sedentary lifestyle may contribute to the risk of pancreatic cancer.”; Source: American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)