Lead author Dr. Gregory A. Cote of Indiana University School of Medicine said patients with no identifiable cause for pancreatitis, as well as those with non-alcohol-related causes, represent an unexpectedly large subgroup, particularly among women.
"One of the more remarkable observations is that in more than 50 percent of patients, alcohol was not considered as the causative factor of chronic pancreatitis," Cote said in a statement. "Future analyses will likely identify previously unrecognized genetic factors and/or interaction between genes and environmental factors as potential explanations of disease development. In the meantime, the era of dismissing all cases of chronic pancreatitis as alcohol-induced has undoubtedly come to a close."
The researchers studied data from patients with chronic pancreatitis and controls enrolled in the North American Pancreatitis Study.
The study, published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, found among the groups, 44.5 percent of patients had chronic pancreatitis due to alcohol consumption, 26.9 percent had non-alcohol related chronic pancreatitis and 28.6 percent had chronic pancreatitis of unknown cause.