Pancreatic cancer incidence and mortality among patients with pancreas cysts are unclear. The aims of this study are to evaluate incidence of pancreatic cancer and cause-specific mortality among patients with pancreatic cysts using a large national cohort over a long follow-up period.
We conducted a retrospective cohort study of US Veterans diagnosed with a pancreatic cyst 1999-2013, based on International Classification of Diseases, 9th edition (ICD9) coding within national Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) data. Pancreatic cancer incidence was ascertained using VA cancer registry data, ICD-9 codes, and the National Death Index, a national centralized database of death records, including cause-specific mortality.
Among 7211 Veterans with pancreatic cysts contributing 31,501 person-years of follow-up (median follow-up 4.4 years), 79 (1.1%) developed pancreatic cancer. A total of 1982 patients (27.5%) died during the study follow-up period. Sixty-three patients (3.2% of deaths; 0.9% of pancreas cyst cohort) died from pancreatic cancer, but the leading causes of death in the cohort were non-pancreatic cancer (n = 498, 25% of deaths) and cardiovascular disease (n = 398, 20% of deaths).
Pancreas cancer incidence and pancreatic cancer-associated mortality are very low in a large national cohort of VA pancreatic cyst patients with long-term follow-up. Most deaths were from non-pancreas cancers and cardiovascular causes, and only a minority (3.2%) were attributable to pancreas cancer. Given death from pancreas cancer is rare, future research should focus on identifying criteria for selecting individuals at high risk for death from pancreatic cancer for pancreatic cyst surveillance.