Cigarette smoking and pancreas cancer: A case - control study based on direct interviews

Debra T. Silverman, Janet A. Dunn, Robert N. Hoover, Mark Schiffiman, Keith D. Lillemoe, Janet B. Schoenberg, Linda M. Brown, Raymond S. Greenberg, Richard B. Hayes, G. Marie Swanson, Sholom Wacholder, Ann G. Schwartz, Jonathan M. Liff, Linda M. Pottern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

251 Scopus citations


Background:Cigarette smoking is the most consistently reported risk factor for pancreas cancer, yet the dose-response relationship in many pancreas cancer studies is weak. Because of the poor prognosis for pancreas cancer, many case-control studies have been based largely on interviews with proxy respondents, who are known to report less reliable information on detailed smoking habits than original subjects. Purpose: Our purpose was to evaluate cigarette smoking as a risk factor for pancreas cancer based on data obtained only from direct interviews and to estimate the effects of quitting smoking and of switching from nonfiltered to filtered cigarettes on risk. Our objective also was to estimate the contribution of cigarette smoking toward explaining the higher pancreas cancer incidence experienced by black Americans compared with white Americans. Methods: A population-based, case-control study of pancreas cancer was conducted during 1986-1989 in Atlanta, Ga., Detroit, Mich., and 10 counties in New Jersey. Direct interviews were successfully completed with 526 case patients and 2153 control subjects aged 30-79 years, making this the largest population-based, case-control study of pancreas cancer to date based only on direct interviews. Results: Cigarette smokers had a significant, 70% increased risk of pancreas cancer compared with the risk in non smokers. A significant, positive trend in risk with increasing duration smoked was apparent (P<.0001), with long-term (≥40 years) smokers experiencing a modest 2.1-fold risk. We also observed a negative trend in risk with increasing years quit smoking. Smokers who quit for more than 10 years experienced about a 30% reduction in risk relative to current smokers; quitters of 10 years or less experienced no risk reduction. Switching from nonfiltered to filtered cigarettes did not appear to decrease risk. Compared with non-smokers, subjects who smoked only filtered cigarettes had a 50% elevated risk and those who smoked only nonfiltered cigarettes had a 40% elevated risk. The proportion of pancreas cancer attributable to cigarette smoking was 29% in blacks and 26% in whites. Conclusions: The relationship between cigarette smoking and pancreas cancer risk is likely to be causal, despite the weakness of the dose-response data. Long-term smoking cessation clearly reduces risk, whereas switching from nonfiltered to filtered cigarettes may not be beneficial. Cigarette smoking appears to explain little of the excess pancreas cancer risk experienced by blacks. Implications: Elimination of cigarette smoking would eventually prevent approximately 27% of pancreas cancer, saving 6750 lives in the United States annually.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1510-1516
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the National Cancer Institute
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 19 1994
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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