Pancreatitis risk factors redefined

June 10, 2009 at 5:50 PM
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PITTSBURGH, June 10 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers found a minority of acute or chronic pancreatic patients are heavy drinkers.

The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found the risk for chronic pancreatitis from alcohol consumption occurred above a threshold level of five drinks.

However, the study also found smoking was an independent risk factor as well -- but a dose-dependent one.

Study leader Dr. Dhiraj Yadav of the University of Pittsburgh examined alcohol use and smoking in 695 healthy controls and 1,000 patients with an average age of 49.7 years evaluated at U.S. referral centers from 2000 to 2006 -- 540 with chronic pancreatitis and 460 with recurrent acute pancreatitis.

"Drinking levels in subjects with recurrent acute pancreatitis are similar to controls. Only a minority of patients with recurrent acute pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis currently seen at secondary or tertiary U.S. centers could be categorized as very heavy drinkers," the study authors wrote in a statement.

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas -- a glandular organ that produces hormones, including insulin, as well as digestive enzymes that help breakdown carbohydrates, proteins and fat.

Acute pancreatitis is a sudden inflammation of the pancreas that can have severe complications. Chronic pancreatitis is a long-standing inflammation that causes progressive scarring.

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