Background/Aims: Worldwide, the incidence of pancreatic cancer is very well known, that of acute pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis not. Our study sought to determine the incidence of all three pancreatic diseases in a well-defined population in Germany. Methods: Records of all patients treated for acute (first attacks only) and chronic pancreatitis as well as pancreatic cancer from 1988 to 1995 and who resided in the county of Lüneburg were evaluated. Results: The crude incidence rates for acute pancreatitis, chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer per 100,000 inhabitants/year were 19.7, 6.4, and 7.8. In acute and chronic pancreatitis the male gender dominated, whereas in pancreatic carcinoma the gender ratio was almost even. Peak incidence for acute pancreatitis was in the age group of 35–44 years, for chronic pancreatitis 45–54, and for pancreatic cancer 65–75. Etiology of acute pancreatitis was biliary in 40%, alcohol abuse in 32%, unknown in 20%, and other in 8% of the patients. In chronic pancreatitis alcohol abuse was the etiology in 72% and unknown (idiopathic) in 28%. Conclusion: For the first time, epidemiological data obtained in a well-defined German population are being published relating to all three pancreatic diseases: acute pancreatitis (incidence rate, etiology and severity), chronic pancreatitis (incidence rate and etiology), and pancreatic carcinoma (incidence rate). A peak incidence of chronic pancreatitis occurring in an age group 10 years older than the peak age group for acute pancreatitis suggests that chronic pancreatitis develops during this time-frame following first attacks of acute pancreatitis.
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