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Pancreatic Cancer Risk Factors

Pancreatic Cancer Risk Factors

Risk factors for pancreatic cancer:

Age: The risk of this cancer goes up as people age. Almost 90% of patients are older than 55. The average age at the time the cancer is found is 72.

Gender: Men have this cancer slightly more often than women.

Race: African Americans are more likely to have this cancer than are whites.

Smoking: The risk of getting cancer of the pancreas is 2 to 3 times higher in smokers. About 2 to 3 out of 10 cases of pancreatic cancer are thought to be caused by smoking. People who use smokeless tobacco are also more likely to get pancreatic cancer.

Obesity and lack of exercise: Very overweight people are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, as are those who don't get much exercise.

Diabetes: Pancreatic cancer is more common in people with this disease. Most of the risk is found in people with type 2 diabetes. The reason for this is not known. In some patients, the cancer seems to have caused the diabetes (not the other way around).

Chronic pancreatitis: This is a long-term inflammation of the pancreas. It is linked with a slightly higher risk of pancreatic cancer, but most people with this condition do not get pancreatic cancer. A small number of cases of chronic pancreatitis appear to be due to a gene mutation (defect). People with this form of chronic pancreatitis seem to have a high lifetime risk for getting pancreatic cancer.

Cirrhosis of the liver: Cirrhosis is a scarring of the liver. It happens in people with liver damage from things like hepatitis and alcohol use. People with cirrhosis seem to have an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.

Work exposure: Heavy exposure at work to certain pesticides, dyes, and chemicals may increase the risk of getting cancer of the pancreas.

Family history: Cancer of the pancreas seems to run in some families. In some of these families, the high risk is due to a gene change (see below). In other families, the gene causing the higher risk of pancreatic cancer is not known.

Gene changes: Inherited gene changes (mutations) are abnormal copies of certain genes that can be passed from parent to child. These changed genes may cause pancreatic cancers and can cause other problems, too. Some of the genes that cause these problems have been found by scientists and can be recognized by genetic testing.

Stomach problems: Having too much stomach acid or having bacteria called H. pylori in the stomach may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.

*Information from the American Cancer Society.