Rush University: Opioid Drugs May Increase the Risk of Pancreatic Cancer

In a recent study, US scientists have found that increased opioid use is linked to an increase in pancreatic cancer.
For several years now, the United States has been facing a health crisis – the opioid crisis. In 2017, the country recorded more than 70,000 overdose deaths, 68% of which were due to opioid drugs. Prescribed to relieve pain, they can cause serious addictions. Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago have found that opioids also increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. They conducted a study on this that was published on the specialized website PLOS One.



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A correlation between opioid deaths and pancreatic cancer

In 2017, more than 191 million opioid prescriptions were written in the United States: of these, 29% led to patient misuse of these drugs and 12% led to opioid-related disorders, including addiction.

The researchers started from a simple observation that was brought by the fact that the number of pancreatic cancer cases is increasing in the country along with the number of prescriptions for opioids. Previous studies have shown that these products can exacerbate certain cancers. To analyze the link between pancreatic cancer and opioids, researchers used data from 1996 to 2016. According to their findings, there is a correlation between these two factors: an increase in the number of cancer cases correlates with an increase in the number of deaths caused by opioids. Increased opioid use affects the number of pancreatic cancer cases in subsequent years. The research team plans to continue their analysis to understand how opioids affect cancer development and progression.

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Pancreatic cancer a particularly aggressive cancer

Today, smoking is the main risk factor for pancreatic cancer. Smoking triples the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Type 2 diabetes is also considered to be a possible cause of pancreatic cancer, as is excessive consumption of fatty products. In general, treatment is based on removing the tumors; chemotherapy may also be recommended. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most aggressive cancers according to the NIH. The five-year survival rate of patients is less than 7%, mainly due to an often late diagnosis. This slowness in diagnosis is explained in particular by the symptoms, which are not always present in the early stages of the disease. It is why it is important to periodically do a health check that includes testing for pancreatic cancer.

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Opioid use as a potential risk factor for pancreatic cancer in the United States: An analysis of state and national level databases



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