A diet rich in whole grains and fibre may cut the risk of pancreatic cancer by up to 40 per cent, according to a new scientific report.
The report, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, adds to a plethora of evidence suggesting that foods containing whole grains are very good for human health, and carry with them a reduced risk of heart disease and several cancers.
For the study, researchers examined the diet of 532 pancreatic cancer patients and 1,701 people not suffering from the disease, in the San Francisco area in the US.
Over the course of one year the researchers looked at how often the participants consumed whole grains and whole grain food items, ranging from oatbran to popcorn, as well as the refined grains in foods such as white bread, pizza and pretzels.
Researcher June Chan and colleagues noted that participants who ate more than two servings of whole grains daily had a lower risk of pancreatic cancer than those who consumed less than one serving per day.
Similar results were noted for brown rice, tortillas and dietary fibre, Chan said.
"Identifying risk factors to prevent pancreatic cancer could have a substantial public health impact, as it is the most fatal cancer in the United States," Chan said.
According to the US National Cancer Institute, there were an estimated 37,170 new cases of pancreatic cancer in the US in 2007, with a massive 33,370 individuals dying from the disease in that year alone.
Eating doughnuts and cooked breakfast cereals, on the other hand, both increase an individual's chance of developing the disease, the study suggests.
While doughnuts contain high amounts of unhealthy sugar and saturated fat, the link between cooked cereals and the cancer may be explained by a person's inability to distinguish between sweetened or 'instant' cereals and less refined breakfast foods.
Regulators worldwide have been particularly keen to promote whole grain consumption, and in the US, the FDA permits foods containing at least 51 per cent whole grains by weight, as well as being low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol, to carry a health claim linking them to a reduced risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
In the EU, a Healthgrain project established in 2005 aims to promote whole grain consumption in order to reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome.
According to the British Heart Foundation, healthy adults should eat 48g of wholegrains every day.
Reference: The American Journal Epidemiology Vol. 166, No. 10, November 2007
Title: "Whole grains and risk of pancreatic cancer in a large population-based case-control study in the San Francisco bay area, California"
Authors: J. Chan, F. Wang, E. Holly