JAN 12, 2016 9:12 PM PST

More magnesium may lower risk of pancreatic cancer

Magnesium intake may be an effective way to prevent pancreatic cancer, a new study suggests.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death in both men and women in the United States. The overall occurrence of pancreatic cancer has not significantly changed since 2002, but the mortality rate has increased annually from 2002 to 2011, according to the National Cancer Institute.
 
"While more study is needed, the general population should strive to get the daily recommendations of magnesium through diet, such as dark, leafy greens or nuts, to prevent any risk of pancreatic cancer," says Daniel Dibaba.

“Pancreatic cancer is really unique and different from other cancers,” says Ka He, chair of the epidemiology and biostatistics department at Indiana University. “The five-year survival rate is really low, so that makes prevention and identifying risk factors or predictors associated with pancreatic cancer very important.”

Previous studies have found that magnesium is inversely associated with the risk of diabetes, which is a risk factor of pancreatic cancer. But few studies have explored the direct association of magnesium with pancreatic cancer and those that did had inconclusive findings, says lead author Daniel Dibaba, a PhD student in the School of Public Health.

Using information from the VITamins and Lifestyle study, the researchers analyzed an enormous trove of data on more than 66,000 men and women, ages 50 to 76, looking at the direct association between magnesium and pancreatic cancer and whether age, gender, body mass index, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs use, and magnesium supplementation play a role.

Of those followed, 151 participants developed pancreatic cancer. Every 100-milligrams-per-day decrease in magnesium intake was associated with a 24 percent increase in the occurrence of pancreatic cancer.

The study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, also found that the effects of magnesium on pancreatic cancer did not appear to be modified by age, gender, body mass index, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug use, but was limited to those taking magnesium supplements either from a multivitamin or individual supplement.

“For those at a higher risk of pancreatic cancer, adding a magnesium supplement to their diet may prove beneficial in preventing this disease,” Dibaba says.

“While more study is needed, the general population should strive to get the daily recommendations of magnesium through diet, such as dark, leafy greens or nuts, to prevent any risk of pancreatic cancer.”
Other researchers from Indiana University and from the University of Washington, and the Jikei University School of Medicine in Tokyo contributed to the study.
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