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According to the American Cancer Society, rates of pancreatic cancer have been slowly increasing over the past 10 years. The lifetime risk of developing pancreatic cancer is about 1 in 78 (1.47%). Researchers have found several factors that affect a person's chance of getting cancer of the pancreas. Most of these are risk factors for exocrine pancreatic cancer.

  • Age. The risk of developing pancreatic cancer increases as people age. Almost all patients are older than 45. Nearly 9 in 10 are at least 55 years old and almost 7 in 10 are at least 65 years old. The average age at the time of diagnosis is 71.
  • Gender. Men are 30% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than women.
  • Race. African Americans are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than whites.
  • Cigarette smoking. The risk of getting pancreatic cancer is at least twice as high among smokers compared to those who have never smoked. About 20% to 30% of exocrine pancreatic cancer cases are thought to be caused by cigarette smoking. Cigar and pipe smoking also increase risk. People who use smokeless tobacco are also more likely to get pancreatic cancer.
  • Obesity and physical activity. Very overweight (obese) people are more likely to develop exocrine pancreatic cancer.
  • Diabetes. Exocrine pancreatic cancer is more common in people who have diabetes. Most of the risk is found in people with type 2 diabetes.
  • Chronic pancreatitis. Chronic pancreatitis is a long-term inflammation of the pancreas. People with this inherited form of chronic pancreatitis seem to have a high lifetime risk for developing pancreatic cancer (about 40% to 75%).
  • Cirrhosis of the liver. Cirrhosis is a scarring of the liver. It develops in people with liver damage from things like hepatitis and alcohol use. People with cirrhosis seem to have an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.
  • Occupational exposure. Heavy exposure at work to certain pesticides, dyes, and chemicals used in metal refining may increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
  • Family history. Pancreatic cancer seems to run in some families.
  • Genetic syndromes. Inherited gene mutations are abnormal copies of certain genes that can be passed from parent to child. These abnormal genes may cause as many as 10% of pancreatic cancers and can cause other problems as well.
  • Stomach problems. Infection of the stomach with the ulcer-causing bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) may increase the risk of getting pancreatic cancer. Some researchers believe that excess stomach acid might also increase the risk.
  • Diet.Some studies linked pancreatic cancer and diets high in fat, or those that include a lot of red meat, pork, and processed meat (such as sausage and bacon).
  • Alcohol. Some studies have shown a link between heavy alcohol intake and pancreatic cancer.

There are no established guidelines for preventing pancreatic cancer. For now, the best approach is to avoid pancreatic cancer risk factors whenever possible.

Cigarette smoking is the most important avoidable risk factor for pancreatic cancer. It is responsible for 20% to 30% of pancreatic cancers. Tobacco use also increases the risk of many other cancers such as cancers of the lung, mouth, larynx (voice box), esophagus, kidney, bladder, and some other organs.

Maintaining a healthy weight, eating well, and exercising are also important. The American Cancer Society recommends choosing foods and beverages in amounts that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Eat a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant foods. This includes eating at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits every day. Choosing whole-grain breads, pastas, and cereals instead of refined grains, and eating fish, poultry, or beans instead of processed meat and red meat may also help lower your risk of cancer, as well as some other diseases.


The full guidelines can be found in the American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention.


For more information about pancreatic cancer, please visit the American Cancer Society .


Source: American Cancer Society

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