The Link Between Opioid Medication and Pancreatic Cancer
Based Upon News Release
January 7, 2021
Rush University Medical Center
Edited For Style and Length
Research Led By Faraz Bishehsari , MD, PhD, Suggests Opioid Use Might Increase A Person’s Risk of Developing Pancreatic Cancer
Researchers at Rush University Medical Center have found that opioid use might increase a person’s risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
Published January 6, the study, titled “Opioid Use as a Potential Risk Factor for Pancreatic Cancer in the United States,” is the first in the country to show evidence that opioid use may be an unidentified risk factor contributing to the increasing incidence of pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic cancer rates also are increasing in the United States. Opioids have been shown to have a harmful effect on multiple types of cancer with recent data suggesting opium use as a possible risk factor for pancreatic cancer in West Central Asia. Population-based studies have suggested opium use to increase risk of pancreatic cancer in a dose dependent manner.³?? While opium use is not a common recreational habit in the United States, opioid use has been rising remarkably over the past decade.
Faraz Bishehsari, MD, PhD, the corresponding author of the study, and his team aimed to examine the possible association between the pattern of opioid use and the changes in the rates of pancreatic cancer during the years 1999-2016. Using the Center for Disease Control’s Wonder online data (procured from the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program) the team extracted the opioid death rate as a surrogate for prescription and illicit opioid use. Incidence of pancreatic cancer was retrieved from the CDC’s online database gathered from the U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group. They extracted the pattern of the lifestyle and behavioral factors that over time could potentially affect the risk of pancreatic cancer.
The collected data suggests a link between opioid consumption and the risk of pancreatic cancer. The next step to directly establish the role of opioids as a novel risk factor for pancreatic cancer is to conduct large population-based studies or longitudinal datasets that reliably register long-term outcomes in opioid users. Findings from the current study, once confirmed by the individual-level data on opioid consumption and risk of pancreatic cancer, could have direct clinical relevance by considering non-narcotic (alternative) pain control approaches in these patients.
The team proposes to investigate possible mechanisms that may link opioid use to the development and/or progression of pancreatic cancer. Consistent with the current findings, a recent post hoc analysis of two randomized controlled trials of patients with advanced cancers (including pancreatic cancer), revealed that that those treated frequently with an opioid antagonist had significantly improved overall survival compared to placebo.?
“Our mechanistic studies could provide further insights on the pathways that opioid could potentially impact progression of cancer,” Bishehsari added.
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