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Open Access Research article

Gestational diabetes as a risk factor for pancreatic cancer: a prospective cohort study

MC Perrin12*, MB Terry2, K Kleinhaus3, L Deutsch4, R Yanetz4, E Tiram4, R Calderon4, Y Friedlander4, O Paltiel4 and S Harlap12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, New York University, 550 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10017, USA

2 Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, 722 West 168th Street, New York, NY 10032, USA

3 New York State Psychiatric Institute, 1051 Riverside Avenue, New York, NY 10032, USA

4 Unit of Epidemiology, The Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Public Health, Ein Kerem, Jerusalem, 91120, Israel

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BMC Medicine 2007, 5:25  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-5-25

Published: 16 August 2007



Diabetes is known to be associated with cancer of the pancreas, though there is some debate as to whether it is a cause or a consequence of the disease. We investigated the incidence of pancreatic cancer in a cohort of 37926 Israeli women followed for 28–40 years for whom information on diabetes had been collected at the time they gave birth, in 1964–1976, in Jerusalem. There were 54 cases of pancreatic cancer ascertained from the Israel Cancer Registry during follow-up.


We used Cox proportional hazards models to adjust for age at baseline and explore effects of other risk factors, including ethnic groups, preeclampsia, birth order and birth weight of offspring.


We observed no cases of pancreatic cancer in the women with insulin dependent diabetes; however, there were five cases in the women with gestational diabetes. The interval between the record of diabetes in pregnancy and the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer ranged from 14–35 years. Women with a history of gestational diabetes showed a relative risk of pancreatic cancer of 7.1 (95% confidence interval, 2.8–18.0).


We conclude that gestational diabetes is strongly related to the risk of cancer of the pancreas in women in this population, and that gestational diabetes can precede cancer diagnosis by many years.