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High opium use ups risk of pancreatic cancer

11 Jan 2018
Police have detained a woman who grows an opium poppy garden for medicinal purposes.

High cumulative use of opium appears to be strongly and significantly associated with the incidence of pancreatic cancer, a recent Iran study has shown.

Researchers performed a prospective study on 50,045 adults (mean age, 52.1±8.9 years; 42.4 percent male) who were systematically followed-up and observed for incidents of hospitalizations, pancreatic cancer and other major diseases.

There were 54 reported cases of pancreatic cancer over a median follow-up period of 7.4 years. Ever use of opium was reported in 17.0 (n=8,483) and 31.5 (n=17) percent of the cohort and pancreatic cancer patients, respectively, with the difference reaching significance (p=0.005). Cigarette smoking was also significantly more common in pancreatic cancer patients (p=0.002).

High cumulative use of opium was reported in 3.5 percent (n=1,727) of participants, who also reported significantly higher cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption. High cumulative consumption was more common in pancreatic cancer patients than in the rest of the cohort (14.8 vs 3.4 percent).

While ever use of opium was not significantly associated with an elevated risk of pancreatic cancer after adjustments (hazard ratio [HR], 1.47; 95 percent CI, 0.75–2.88), a high cumulative consumption significantly raised the risk of pancreatic cancer (HR, 2.92; 1.20–7.12). Adjustments were made for covariates such as alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, age and sex.

“We detected that a significantly higher proportion of patients with pancreatic cancer reported ever use of opium. Those who used higher cumulative doses of opium demonstrated a [fourfold] higher risk of pancreatic cancer. This still existed after adjustments for multiple potentially confounding factors,” said researchers.

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