Is dietary fat, vitamin D, or folate associated with pancreatic cancer?
Although potentially modifiable risk factors for pancreatic cancer include smoking, obesity, and diabetes, less is known about the extent to which diet affects cancer risk. Recent studies have demonstrated some consistency for dietary fat being associated with elevated pancreatic cancer risk, particularly from animal sources. However, less is known about which fatty acids pose the greatest risk. Vitamin D, due to its endogenous production following UV-B exposure, is a unique risk factor in that researchers have created several methods to assess its exposure in humans. Studies that measured vitamin D exposure differently have shown inconsistent results. Dietary studies suggest protective associations, whereas studies of circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D status show null or positive associations with low or very high concentrations, respectively. Several, but not all epidemiologic studies provide evidence of an inverse relationship between total and/or dietary folate and risk of pancreatic cancer. Protective associations for circulating folate are more often observed among populations with inadequate status. This article reviews the current epidemiological and experimental evidence investigating the relationship of dietary fat, vitamin D, and folate with pancreatic cancer. Additionally the mechanisms by which these risk factors may contribute to cancer, the methodological challenges involved with assessing risk, and other obstacles encountered when ascertaining the magnitude and direction of these three exposures are discussed.