Low levels of the obesity-related hormone adiponectin are associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer, researchers reported. In a case-control study, pancreatic cancer patients had significantly lower levels of the hormone than controls in blood samples drawn at least a year before their diagnosis, according to Ying Bao, MD, ScD, of Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues.
The association was independent of smoking, diabetes, body mass index, and other known or suspected risk factors for pancreatic cancer, Bao and colleagues reported online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
The findings "provide additional evidence for a biological link between obesity, insulin resistance, and pancreatic cancer risk and also suggest an independent role of adiponectin," they concluded.
The etiology of pancreatic cancer -- the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. – is not well understood, the researchers noted. However, they added, evidence is growing that obesity is an important risk factor, suggesting that adiponectin, secreted primarily by adipose tissue, might also play a role.