January, 2022

Temporality of clinical factors associated with pancreatic cancer: a case-control study using linked electronic health records

Barts Life Sciences’ CAP-AI fellow Dayem Ullah and principal investigators Claude Chelala and Hemant Kocher have published a new paper in the BMC cancer journal on their project analysing the temporality of clinical factors associated with pancreatic cancer using linked electronic health records. The full article can be found here: https://bmccancer.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12885-021-09014-w



Pancreatic cancer risk is poorly quantified in relation to the temporal presentation of medical comorbidities and lifestyle. This study aimed to examine this aspect, with possible influence of demographics.


We conducted a retrospective case-control study on the ethnically-diverse population of East London, UK, using linked electronic health records. We evaluated the independent and two-way interaction effects of 19 clinico-demographic factors in patients with pancreatic cancer (N = 965), compared with non-malignant pancreatic conditions (N = 3963) or hernia (control; N = 4355), reported between April 1, 2008 and March 6, 2020. Risks were quantified by odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) from multivariable logistic regression models.


We observed increased odds of pancreatic cancer incidence associated with recent-onset diabetes occurring within 6 months to 3 years before cancer diagnosis (OR 1.95, 95% CI 1.25-3.03), long-standing diabetes for over 3 years (OR 1.74, 95% CI 1.32-2.29), recent smoking (OR 1.81, 95% CI 1.36-2.4) and drinking (OR 1.76, 95% CI 1.31-2.35), as compared to controls but not non-malignant pancreatic conditions. Pancreatic cancer odds was highest for chronic pancreatic disease patients (recent-onset: OR 4.76, 95% CI 2.19-10.3, long-standing: OR 5.1, 95% CI 2.18-11.9), amplified by comorbidities or harmful lifestyle. Concomitant diagnosis of diabetes, upper gastrointestinal or chronic pancreatic conditions followed by a pancreatic cancer diagnosis within 6 months were common, particularly in South Asians. Long-standing cardiovascular, respiratory and hepatobiliary conditions were associated with lower odds of pancreatic cancer.


Several factors are, independently or via effect modifications, associated with higher incidence of pancreatic cancer, but some established risk factors demonstrate similar magnitude of risk measures of developing non-malignant pancreatic conditions. The findings may inform refined risk-stratification strategies and better surveillance for high-risk individuals, and also provide a means for systematic identification of target population for prospective cohort-based early detection research initiatives.