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Genetic link between pancreatitis and alcohol consumption, says Pitt team
Date:11/12/2012

ted over 10 years and involved more than 2,000 patients, all of whom underwent DNA testing in a study funded by the National Institutes of Health. Researchers discovered that there was a common DNA variant on the X chromosome that is present in 26 percent of men without pancreatitis, but jumps to nearly 50 percent of men diagnosed with alcoholic pancreatitis. Women have two X chromosomes, so most women with the high-risk DNA variant on one X chromosome appear to be protected from alcoholic chronic pancreatitis by the other X chromosome, if it is normal. Men have one X chromosome and one Y chromosome, so if they inherit a high-risk X chromosome, there is no protection.

The factor on chromosome X does not appear to cause pancreatitis, but if pancreatic injury occurs for any reason such as gallstone pancreatitis or abdominal trauma, it is more likely that the person will develop chronic pancreatitis especially if they also drink alcohol.

"This information is important because the high-risk chromosome can be identified in patients who drink and have early signs of pancreatic injury," said Dhiraj Yadav, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at Pitt, and a co-investigator on the study. "If pancreatic injury and acute pancreatitis occur, patients must stop drinking immediately."

Nationally, 16 percent of men drink alcohol at levels defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism as high risk. Twenty-six percent of these men who drink heavily are at high risk of chronic pancreatitis following pancreas injury. Only 10 percent of women drink alcohol at dangerous levels, and of these only 6 percent have the X chromosome variant on both X chromosomes.

"Previous discoveries show that chronic pancreatitis without alcohol involvement has a strong genetic link. This helps to eliminate the previous stigma that patients with chronic pancreatitis must also be heavy drinkers," added
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Contact: Cristina Mestre
MestreCA@upmc.edu
412-586-9776
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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