PCOS linked to pancreatic cancer

2 minute read

The odds of these women developing the rare cancer is twice as high as those with no history of the syndrome.

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may benefit from increased education and clinical vigilance when it comes to pancreatic cancer, according to US-based researchers.

Each year, around 4500 new cases of pancreatic cancer are diagnosed in Australia, with a slight skew toward men.

Although rare, prognosis is poor, with a 12% rate of survival beyond five years.

PCOS, meanwhile, affects up to 13% of reproductive age women and obtaining a timely diagnosis is known to be challenging.

According to a research letter in JAMA Oncology, women with a previous PCOS diagnosis have 1.9 times higher odds of developing pancreatic cancer. That’s independent of BMI, estrogen use and age.

When adjusted for type 2 diabetes diagnosis, the odds ratio fell slightly to 1.8.

This finding adds weight to a small 2019 Swedish register study which reported that women with PCOS had a 3.4-fold increased risk of pancreatic cancer.

The American case-control study included around 450 women with confirmed pancreatic adenocarcinoma and 200 control cases.

“Results were similar after restricting analysis to cases with a time from PCOS to pancreatic cancer diagnosis of five years or more, which suggests that reverse causation and detection bias did not materially influence the findings,” the researchers said.

“Although differential recall in cases and controls is a concern, self-reported PCOS or age at PCOS diagnosis is likely more accurate compared with self-reported lifestyle factors.”

The study authors, who were based out of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, called for further research into the underlying biologic mechanism of the link and whether a PCOS diagnosis should flag patients for additional pancreatic cancer screening.

Jama Oncology 2022, online 6 October

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