Medically reviewed by Eric Venn-Watson, MD
It goes without saying, no one wants to be diagnosed with any type of cancer, but pancreatic cancer is an especially dangerous and aggressive disease.
Pancreatic cancer is a serious condition affecting your pancreas, and it has the ability to spread to other organs. Your pancreas is responsible for helping you with digestion by producing enzymes that break down sugar, starches, and fats. These are broken down so they can be used by your body.
Your pancreas is also responsible for helping you maintain healthy blood sugar levels. When you eat food, the sugar in your blood (also called glucose) needs to be moved to your body’s cells to be used for energy. The pancreas produces insulin, a hormone, which effectively removes glucose from your bloodstream and delivers it to cells. In turn, extra glucose is stored in the liver.
When the pancreas doesn’t function properly, you can experience illness, such as:
Diabetes. If your body can’t use the insulin your pancreas makes, or if your pancreas cannot make enough insulin, you can become insulin resistant. Insulin resistance is part of a group of diseases that make up metabolic syndrome, a condition that places you at much higher risk for developing heart disease and having a stroke. If your insulin resistance isn’t treated, you can develop diabetes. Left untreated, diabetes can be a very serious and life-threatening condition.
Pancreatitis. This is a painful condition that describes inflammation of the pancreas. When the enzymes the pancreas produces attacks the pancreas itself, you can develop pancreatitis. Excessive, prolonged alcohol use can cause pancreatitis, as well as the development of gallstones.
Pancreatic Cancer. This cancer affects the cells of your pancreas, especially the ones that help with producing pancreatic enzymes. This cancer is hard to diagnose early, and as such, has one of the lowest survival rates.
There is no cure for pancreatic cancer, and currently, no way to screen for it. It is often not diagnosed until it has reached a later stage, and/or has spread to surrounding organs. This is because symptoms of pancreatic cancer aren’t present until the cancer has already spread.
Symptoms of pancreatic cancer can include jaundice, fatigue, appetite and weight loss, abdominal pain, and gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea. Because there’s no way to screen for this deadly disease, it’s vitally important that we actively pursue ways to lower our risk of developing it.
5 Tips To Lower Your Risk of Pancreatic Cancer
We’ll be straightforward -- there’s no surefire way to just prevent pancreatic cancer, but there are ways to lower your risk of developing it. A healthy lifestyle and better choices can protect your pancreatic health. Here are five tips for lowering your risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
Stop Smoking. Smoking increases your risk for numerous types of cancers, including pancreatic cancer. Research suggests that the carcinogenic compounds in cigarettes cause additional inflammation in the pancreas, and stimulates the growth of pancreatic cancer. In terms of risk factors for pancreatic cancer, smoking is number one. You can dramatically reduce your risk of developing pancreatic cancer by stopping smoking today.
Avoid Weight Gain. Being overweight is the second highest risk factor for developing pancreatic cancer. People who are overweight (individuals whose BMI is higher than 30) are 20% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than individuals who have a healthy body weight. You can lower your risk of developing pancreatic cancer by losing weight and maintaining a healthy BMI. Increasing your exercise to 30 minutes a day can help you lose weight and promote overall health.
Eat More Fruits and Vegetables. There’s no diet that will prevent any cancer, but eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is the best way to protect your overall health from a dietary standpoint, which plays a huge role. Eating fruits and vegetables that contain antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, natural sugar, and fiber is a good way to stay healthy and give your body what it needs to function properly. Eating more fruits and vegetables can also help keep you feeling fuller for longer, which can help you lose weight, cut back on unhealthy snacks, and boost your energy levels.
Manage Your Blood Sugar. Increased blood sugar levels that lead to insulin resistance and/or diabetes can increase your risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Having diabetes for a period of longer than five years increases your risk even higher. Sudden onset diabetes can be a symptom of pancreatic cancer, especially if you have no other risk factors for diabetes, like metabolic syndrome. Managing your blood sugar is important to your overall health, and along with a healthy diet, there's mounting evidence that adding a little-known fatty acid, called pentadecanoic acid, may help you achieve this goal.
Know Your Fats. Lowering your unhealthy fat intake can help you lower your risk of developing pancreatic cancer. However, it’s a myth that all fat is bad. In fact, some (like omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids) are essential. While some saturated fats are associated with negative health markers, like inflammation, heart disease, and type II diabetes, some saturated fats are associated with positive health markers, like balanced immunity, heart health, healthy metabolism, red blood cell health, and liver health. The fat responsible for the good health markers? The fatty acid, pentadecanoic acid, we just mentioned, also known as C15:0.
C15:0 (aka pentadecanoic acid)
C15:0 is an odd-chain saturated fatty acid that is supported by a growing amount of research to potentially be the first essential fatty acid to be discovered in decades. An essential fatty acid is something your body needs to function properly, but can’t make on its own. That means we have to get it from our food.
Getting C15:0 from our food, however, is a problem. We’ve spent an entire generation avoiding fat. We were no longer buying whole dairy products like milk and butter, and that’s precisely where C15:0 can be found. Unfortunately, whole dairy products also contain an unhealthy dose of bad fats, so where can we find our balance?
As of just recently: a once a day, C15:0 supplement.
You can lower your risk of pancreatic cancer by not smoking, avoiding weight gain, managing your blood sugar, and, possibly, increasing your intake of pentadecanoic acid. In a study including 750 patients, people who had higher circulating C15:0 body levels had a lower risk of having pancreatic cancer. A series of studies published in Scientific Reports has demonstrated how C15:0 can act as a beneficial dietary fat that may be critical to supporting your overall health.
C15:0 is all-natural, and has a myriad of health benefits not limited to simply increasing healthy fat intake -- here are just a few:
There’s no cure for pancreatic cancer, and there is no way of preventing it, but you may lower your risk of developing it by maintaining a healthy lifestyle void of smoking and excess weight, and packed with healthy nutrients and healthy fats, including C15:0.
STEPHANIE VENN-WATSON, dvm, mph
Dr. Stephanie Venn-Watson is a veterinary epidemiologist dedicated to improving both human and animal health. Before co-founding Seraphina Therapeutics and Epitracker, Inc,. she worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, and the Department of Defense. Dr. Venn-Watson has over 70 peer-reviewed scientific publications and is an inventor on 40+ patents. Her dedication to discovering natural compounds to improve global health has been featured in/on Forbes, NPR Science Friday, PBS, National Geographic, BBC, and more.
ERIC VENN-WATSON, MD
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson is a physician, US Navy veteran and serial entrepreneur. Prior to Seraphina Therapeutics, Eric founded multiple companies in therapeutics discovery, healthcare analytics, and medical device industries as well as working in leadership roles in several life science companies.