Circulating plasma phospholipid fatty acids and risk of pancreatic cancer in a large European cohort

M. Matejcic, F. Lesueur, C. Biessy, A. L. Renault, N. Mebirouk, S. Yammine, P. Keski-Rahkonen, B. Hémon, E. Weiderpass, V. Rebours, M. C. Boutron-Ruault, F. Carbonnel, R. Kaaks, V. Katzke, T. Kuhn, H. Boeing, A. Trichopoulou, D. Palli, C. Agnoli, S. PanicoR. Tumino, C. Sacerdote, J. R. Quirós, E. J. Duell, M. Porta, M. J. Sánchez, M. D. Chirlaque, A. Barricarte, P. Amiano, W. Ye, P. H. Peeters, K. T. Khaw, A. Perez-Cornago, T. J. Key, H. B. Bueno-de-Mesquita, E. Riboli, P. Vineis, I. Romieu, M. J. Gunter, V. Chajès*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


There are both limited and conflicting data on the role of dietary fat and specific fatty acids in the development of pancreatic cancer. In this study, we investigated the association between plasma phospholipid fatty acids and pancreatic cancer risk in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort. The fatty acid composition was measured by gas chromatography in plasma samples collected at recruitment from375 incident pancreatic cancer cases and375 matched controls. Associations of specific fatty acids with pancreatic cancer risk were evaluated using multivariable conditional logistic regression models with adjustment for established pancreatic cancer risk factors. Statistically significant inverse associations were found between pancreatic cancer incidence and levels of heptadecanoic acid (OR T3-T1 [odds ratio for highest versus lowest tertile] =0.63; 95%CI[confidence interval] = 0.41–0.98; p trend = 0.036), n-3 polyunsaturated α-linolenic acid (OR T3-T1 = 0.60; 95%CI = 0.39–0.92; p trend = 0.02) and docosapentaenoic acid (OR T3-T1 = 0.52; 95%CI = 0.32–0.85; p trend = 0.008). Industrial trans-fatty acids were positively associated with pancreatic cancer risk among men (OR T3-T1 = 3.00; 95%CI = 1.13–7.99; p trend = 0.029), while conjugated linoleic acids were inversely related to pancreatic cancer among women only (OR T3-T1 = 0.37; 95%CI = 0.17–0.81; p trend = 0.008). Among current smokers, the long-chain n-6/n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids ratio was positively associated with pancreatic cancer risk (OR T3-T1 = 3.40; 95%CI = 1.39–8.34; p trend = 0.007). Results were robust to a range of sensitivity analyses. Our findings suggest that higher circulating levels of saturated fatty acids with an odd number of carbon atoms and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may be related to lower risk of pancreatic cancer. The influence of some fatty acids on the development of pancreatic cancer may be sex-specific and modulated by smoking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2437-2448
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number10
Early online date15 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge Mrs. B?atrice Vozar at IARC for the laboratory measurements of plasma fatty acids. We confirm that all authors listed have contributed to the planning, execution and analysis of the submitted manuscript. The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Funding Information:
Key words: biomarkers, plasma phospholipids, fatty acids, tobacco smoking, pancreatic cancer Abbreviations: CI: confidence interval; EPIC: European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition; FA: fatty acid; MUFA: monounsaturated fatty acid; OR: odds ratio; PC: pancreatic cancer; PUFA: polyunsaturated fatty acid; SFA: saturated fatty acid; TFA: trans fatty acid Additional Supporting Information may be found in the online version of this article. †Co-senior authors Grant sponsor: Fondation ARC pour la Recherche sur le Cancer; Grant numbers: FI20121205556; Grant sponsor: Institut National Du Cancer; Grant numbers: 2013-140; Grant sponsor: World Cancer Research Fund; Grant numbers: 2013/987; Grant sponsor: Institut National du Cancer (INCA); Grant numbers: 2013–140; Grant sponsor: World Cancer Research Funds (WCRF); Grant numbers: 2013/987; Grant sponsor: Fondation ARC; Grant numbers: FI20121205556; Grant sponsor: European Commission FP7 Marie Curie Actions-People-Cofunding; Grant sponsor: International Agency for Research on Cancer; Grant sponsor: Postdoctoral Fellowship; Grant sponsor: Medical Research Council; Grant numbers: MR/M012190/1, 1000143; Grant sponsor: Cancer Research UK; Grant numbers: C8221/A19170, C570/ A16491, 14136; Grant sponsor: Swedish Cancer Society, Swedish Scientific Council and County Councils of Skåne and Västerbotten (Sweden); Grant sponsor: Navarra, ISCIII RETIC; Grant numbers: RD06/0020; Grant sponsor: Regional Governments of Andalucía, Asturias, Basque Country, Murcia; Grant numbers: 6236; Grant sponsor: Health Research; Grant numbers: PI13/00061; Grant sponsor: Nordic Centre of Excellence programme on Food, Nutrition and Health (Norway); Grant sponsor: Statistics Netherlands (The Netherlands); Grant sponsor: World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF); Grant sponsor: Dutch ZON (Zorg Onderzoek Nederland); Grant sponsor: Dutch Prevention Funds; Grant sponsor: LK Research Funds; Grant sponsor: Netherlands Cancer Registry (NKR); Grant sponsor: Welfare and Sports (VWS); Grant sponsor: Dutch Ministry of Public Health; Grant sponsor: National Research Council (Italy); Grant sponsor: Associazione Italiana per la Ricerca sul Cancro-AIRC-Italy; Grant sponsor: The Hellenic Health Foundation (Greece); Grant sponsor: Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF, Germany); Grant sponsor: German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ); Grant sponsor: German Cancer Aid; Grant sponsor: Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) (France); Grant sponsor: Mutuelle Générale de l’Education Nationale; Grant sponsor: Institut Gustave Roussy; Grant sponsor: Ligue Contre le Cancer; Grant sponsor: Danish Cancer Society (Denmark); Grant sponsor: International Agency for Research on Cancer; Grant sponsor: The European Commission (DG-SANCO) DOI: 10.1002/ijc.31797 History: Received 20 Mar 2018; Accepted 9 Jul 2018; Online 15 Aug 2018 Correspondence to: Dr Veronique Chajès, PhD, Nutritional Epidemiology Group, International Agency for Research on Cancer, 150, Cours Albert-Thomas, 69372 Lyon CEDEX 08, France, E-mail:; Tel.: +33 (0)4 72 73 80 14

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 UICC

Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • biomarkers
  • fatty acids
  • pancreatic cancer
  • plasma phospholipids
  • tobacco smoking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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