Results from a new study provide evidence that magnesium intake could prevent the development of pancreatic cancer, similar to the early stages shown above. [NIH]
Results from a new study provide evidence that magnesium intake could prevent the development of pancreatic cancer, similar to the early stages shown above. [NIH]

Though foods rich in magnesium (dark leafy greens, nuts, fish, whole grains, dark chocolate, and more) constitute quite a range of culinary delights, it can still be difficult to consume the current recommended daily value of 400 milligrams. Yet now, researchers at Indiana University provide evidence that supports the notion that magnesium intake may be beneficial in preventing pancreatic cancer, which could provide more than enough incentive for many individuals to take their diets more seriously.  

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth-leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women in the United States. According to the National Cancer Institute, the overall occurrence of pancreatic cancer has not significantly changed since 2002, but the mortality rate has increased annually from 2002 to 2011.

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

Some previous studies have found an inverse relationship between magnesium intake and an increased chance of developing diabetes—a common risk factor for pancreatic cancer. However, few studies have explored the direct association of magnesium with pancreatic cancer and of those that did, their findings were mostly inconclusive.

The IU researchers utilized information from a large cohort study of dietary supplements and cancer risk called the VITamins And Lifestyle (VITAL) Study. The investigators analyzed data from 66,806 men and women aged 50–76 years followed from 2000 to 2008, studying 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.

The findings from this study were published recently in the British Journal of Cancer through an article entitled “Magnesium intake and incidence of pancreatic cancer: The VITamins and Lifestyle study,” recently appeared in the British Journal of Cancer.”

During an average of 6.8-years of follow-up, 151 participants developed pancreatic cancer. The authors found that for every 100-milligrams-per-day decrease in magnesium intake there was a corresponding increase in the occurrence of pancreatic cancer by 24%. Moreover, the study 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,” explained lead author Daniel Dibaba, a doctoral student at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington. “While more study is needed, the general population should strive to get the daily recommendations of magnesium through diets, such as dark, leafy greens or nuts, to prevent any risk of pancreatic cancer.”

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