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expert reaction to study of trace metals and lower or higher cancer risk, as published in Gut

New research examined the association between trace metals and the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.


Professor Alan Boobis, Department of Medicine, Imperial College, said:

“Whilst this paper raises some interesting hypotheses regarding the role of trace metals in pancreatic cancer, it is too early to determine where the concern lies. In addition to the limitations identified by the authors, there is the possibility of co-variance of some of the metals with each other and indeed with other unmeasured factors. Observational studies such as this do require independent confirmation as indicated by the authors, and also require consideration of the Bradford Hill ‘criteria’ in reaching a conclusion on possible causation. The decrease in risk from nickel is unexpected and again points to the need for additional information.”


Dr Andrew Taylor, Consultant Clinical Scientist and Honorary Reader, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Surrey, said:

“Associations between trace elements and cancer are regularly reported but finding causal links is more controversial. The best evidence comes from occupational settings where the exposure is much greater than with general populations. Some essential elements serve to protect cells against damage, including types of cancer. The authors rightly point to genetic predisposition in the development of the disease and any role for trace elements, either positive or negative, may be limited to susceptible individuals.”

‘Pancreatic cancer risk and levels of trace elements’ by Andre Amaral et al., published online in Gut on Monday 19th December 2011.

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