Pancreatic Cancer Rising In Younger People

One of the first global studies of young-onset pancreatic cancer (YOPC) rates in the 15-49-year-old age bracket has found a significant increase over the past 20 years, including in Australia and other advanced countries.

Flinders academic and clinician Associate Professor Savio George Barreto.

Led by Flinders University, the new study published in the international journal Pancreatology, found an alarming rise in the incidence, death and disability-adjusted life years in YOPC rates in high socio-demographic index (SDI) regions - compared to low SDI regions.

"Disturbingly, our analysis of the Global Burden of Disease Study dataset reveals a significant increase in incidence of this deadly disease," says Flinders University College of Medicine and Public Health researcher Associate Professor Savio (George) Barreto.

"While global efforts to reduce smoking and tobacco use might be responsible for reducing the disability-adjusted life years attributable to the disease in younger populations, the impact of obesity and raised fasting plasma glucose is increasingly relevant to us in Australasia and Oceania."

SDI is a composite indicator classifying regions or countries into different development levels by incorporating income per capita, educational attainment and fertility rates.

The incidence of YOPC in Australia overall (1.18 per 100,000 people) is lower than the overall cumulative rate of high SDI regions, at 1.43 cases per 100,000 population. However, recent studies show the gap is closing.

Associate Professor Barreto says young-onset pancreatic cancer rates in the Northern Territory revealed a rate of 3.15 people per 100,000 compared to 0.75 / 100,000 in South Australia, which lies between Oceania (0.4 / 100,000) and Australasia (1.2 / 100,000).

Pancreatic cancer is more common in people over the age of 50, seldom exhibits symptoms until an advanced stage and remains one of the most lethal causes of cancer death due to lack of treatments. Despite advances in the detection and management of pancreatic cancer, the five-year survival rate is very low, about 10% of patients.

"The rising impact of obesity and raised fasting plasma glucose levels present an area for public health action if we are to combat this very disturbing trend in one of the deadliest cancers now affecting the young," says Associate Professor Barreto.

In 2019, the top five countries with the highest incidence rates of YOPC (expressed per 100,000) were United Arab Emirates (4.32), Monaco (3.43), Ukraine (3.4), Bulgaria (3.29) and Greenland (2.84). The countries with the five lowest incidence rates of YOPC were Ethiopia (0.14), Guinea (0.19), Niger (0.20), Somalia (0.24) and Chad (0.27).

The article, 'The burden of young-onset pancreatic cancer and its risk factors from 1990 to 2019: A systematic analysis of the global burden of disease study 2019 (2024) by Simranjeet Singh Dahia (University of Adelaide School of Computer Science), Laalithya Konduru (Flinders) , Stephen J Pandol (Digestive and Liver Diseases, Cedar-Sinai Medical Center, US) and Savio George Barreto has been published in Pancreatology DOI: 10.10.1183/23120541.00739-2023

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