Pancreatic steatosis on computed tomography is an early imaging feature of pre-diagnostic pancreatic cancer: A preliminary study in overweight patients

Sanne A. Hoogenboom, Candice W. Bolan, Anthony Chuprin, Maria T. Raimondo, Jeanin E. van Hooft, Michael B. Wallace, Massimo Raimondo

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The prevalence of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is on the rise, driven by factors such as aging and an increasing prevalence of obesity and diabetes mellitus. To improve the poor survival rate of PDAC, early detection is vital. Recently, pancreatic steatosis has gained novel interest as a risk factor for PDAC. This study aimed to investigate if pancreatic steatosis on computed tomography (CT) is an early imaging feature in patients with pre-diagnostic PDAC. Methods: A retrospective case-control study was performed. Patients diagnosed with PDAC (2010–2016) were reviewed for abdominal non-contrast CT-imaging 1 month-3 years prior to their diagnosis. Cases were matched 1:4 with controls based on age, gender and imaging date. Unenhanced CT-images were evaluated for pancreatic steatosis (pancreas-to-spleen ratio in Hounsfield Units <0.70) by a blinded radiologist and results were compared between cases and controls. Results: In total, 32 cases and 117 controls were included in the study with a comparable BMI (29.6 and 29.2 respectively, p = 0.723). Pancreatic steatosis was present in 71.9% of cases compared to 45.3% of controls (Odds ratio (OR) 3.09(1.32–7.24), p = 0.009). Adjusted for BMI and diabetes mellitus, pancreatic steatosis on CT remained a significant independent risk factor for PDAC (Adjusted OR 2.70(1.14–6.58), p = 0.037). Conclusion: Pancreatic steatosis measured on CT is independently associated with PDAC up to three years before the clinical diagnosis in overweight patients. If these data are confirmed, this novel imaging feature may be used to identify high-risk individuals and to stratify the risk of PDAC in individuals that already undergo PDAC screening.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)428-433
Number of pages6
Issue number2
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • Fatty pancreas
  • Imaging biomarker
  • Obesity

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