A University of Auckland team led by Dr Max Petrov and Professor John Windsor carried out the research, which analysed 54 other studies among the general population, including nearly three million individuals and almost 11,000 patients living with pancreatic disorders.
They investigated nine of the top risk factors – including tobacco use, obesity and heavy alcohol consumption – four protective factors and 18 neutral factors.
According to their findings, current tobacco use was the most significant risk factor for developing pancreatic diseases, increasing the risk of development by 87 per cent when compared to those who never smoked. Obesity and heavy alcohol use came next.
And it was vegetable and fruit consumption that provided “the greatest protection against pancreatic diseases” according to Dr Petrov.
“Vegetable consumption had a stronger association with protection against acute pancreatitis, and fruit consumption with protection against pancreatic cancer,” he said.
In its most severe form, pancreatic diseases can escalate into pancreatic cancer, an aggressive disease with a high mortality rate. In 2010, pancreatic cancer was the fifth most common cause of cancer death in both Australia and New Zealand.