Page last updated: May 2011
Chronic pancreatitis and alcohol

Authors of a study state that alcohol is presumed to be implicated in the development of chronic pancreatitis (CP) in 60%–90% of patients, although percentages in the US are unknown. This study investigated the epidemiology of alcohol-related CP at tertiary US referral centers. The relative rate of alcohol-related CP was found to be lower than expected.  According to the study findings, patients with no identifiable cause for their disease as well as those with non-alcohol-related causes represent an unexpectedly large subgroup, particularly amongst women.
The study encompasses data from patients with CP and controls enrolled in the North American Pancreatitis Study, which was designed to further the understanding of the role of gene-environment interactions in patients with recurrent acute pancreatitis and CP. Among the groups, 44.5% of patients had CP due to alcohol consumption, 26.9% had non-alcohol related CP, and 28.6% had CP of unknown cause.
Doctors observed that the current etiologic profile of CP patients evaluated at US referral centers is quite different from historical data. Although alcohol remains the most common cause, a larger fraction of patients was considered to have non-alcoholic etiologies, and in more than a quarter of patients, no identifiable cause of disease (i.e., idiopathic CP) was apparent. Among the risk factors assessed, smoking was independently associated with idiopathic CP.
“One of the more remarkable observations is that in more than 50% of patients, alcohol was not considered as the causative factor of chronic pancreatitis,” said Gregory A. Coté, MD, MS, of Indiana University School of Medicine and lead author of this study. “Future analyses will likely identify previously unrecognised genetic factors and/or interaction between genes and environmental factors as potential explanations of disease development. In the meantime, the era of dismissing all cases of chronic pancreatitis as alcohol-induced has undoubtedly come to a close.”
Source: Alcohol and Smoking as Risk Factors in an Epidemiology Study of Patients With Chronic Pancreatitis. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology Volume 9, Issue 3 , Pages 266-273, March 2011

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