The results of a major study across 195 countries, presented today at UEG Week 2019in Barcelona, indicate that global death rates for pancreatic cancer and incidence rates for colorectal cancer both increased by 10% between 1990 and 2017.
The Global Burden of Disease study, is the first to provide comprehensive worldwide estimates of the burden, epidemiological features and risk factors of a number of digestive diseases. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the study has also been published this week in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology.
Pancreatic cancer deaths and incidence more than doubled over the study period. Much of this increase was due to increases in population and longevity, but even after accounting for population changes, incidence and death rates increased from 1990 to 2017, probably due to changes in associated risk factors. Pancreatic cancer is an aggressive cancer, predicted to become the second leading cause of cancer deaths in some regions. It often presents in old age, at an advanced stage, and has a poor prognosis. Of note, the highest incidence and death rates were found in higher-income countries.
Experts believe the increase is related to a rise in the prevalence of obesity and diabetes, as reflected by the risk factors of high BMI and higher blood glucose levels which are two of the leading risk factors for pancreatic cancer.
From 1990 to 2017, age-standardized incidence rates for colorectal cancer increased 9.5% globally but, by contrast, age-standardized death rates decreased by 13.5%. The researchers believe that this is due to the introduction of colorectal cancer screening programs, leading to earlier detection and an increased chance of survival.
Professor Reza Malekzadeh, lead author of the study and Professor of Medicine and Director of the Digestive Disease Institute at Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran, commented, “Pancreatic cancer is one of the world’s deadliest cancers, with an overall five-year survival rate of just 5% in high, middle and low-income countries. Major risk factors for the disease, such as smoking, diabetes and obesity, are largely modifiable and present a huge opportunity for prevention.”
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