Dr. Michelle Anderson of the University of Michigan Health System said smoking is a strong risk factor for pancreatic cancer and alcohol has been shown to cause oxidative damage to the pancreas -- which sets the stage for the inflammatory pathways that can lead to cancer.
Anderson headed up a study that involved 811 pancreatic cancer patients from the international database Pancreatic Cancer Collaborative Registry, which gathers information on patients with pancreatic cancer and at high-risk for developing pancreatic cancer.
In the study, heavy smokers were defined as those who smoked more than a pack per day, and heavy drinking was measured at about three average drinks per day.
The study, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, reported the heavy smokers with pancreatic cancer were diagnosed around age 62 and heavy drinkers at age 61 -- almost a decade earlier than the average age at which pancreatic cancer is normally detected.
However, the harmful effects of heavy drinking and smoking could be reversed -- after 10 years, former smokers and drinkers who quit their habits faced no extra risk of earlier diagnosis, the study said.