Certain pancreatic cancer risk factors have been identified by scientists through advances in medical research. While studies of the exact causes of pancreatic cancer remain inconclusive, the presence of one or more risk factors is believed to increase the likelihood that an individual will develop the condition. It is important to note, however, that many people with one or more of these traits never develop pancreatic cancer. Furthermore, some people develop cancer without having any risk factors whatsoever. Ultimately, the best way to protect yourself is to remain vigilant for symptoms – particularly jaundice, abdominal and/or back pain, loss of appetite and new-onset diabetes – and to consult promptly with a health care practitioner if you have any questions or concerns.
Some factors that are believed to increase an individual’s risk of developing pancreatic cancer include:
- A history of smoking – Heavy smokers are two to three times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than non-smokers.
- Age – Risk increases with age, and the majority of patients are diagnosed at age 60 or older.
- Family history – Having a parent, sibling or child who has pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, familial melanoma or hereditary pancreatitis can increase an individual’s risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
- Chronic or hereditary pancreatitis – Pancreatitis can cause recurrent episodes of pancreatic inflammation, which is believed to lead to pancreatic cancer.
- Long-standing diabetes – While new-onset diabetes is a symptom, long-standing diabetes is a risk factor.
- Obesity and/or excessive abdominal fat – Obese individuals have a 20 percent higher risk of developing the condition, and people with excessive abdominal fat may have increased risk that is independent of that associated with general obesity.
- Diet – While a diet that is high in red or processed meats is thought to increase risk, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may decrease risk.
Moffitt Cancer Center’s Gastrointestinal Oncology Program has a multispecialty team of pancreatic cancer experts who offer patients comprehensive treatment options and compassionate care regarding all aspects of pancreatic cancer in a single, convenient location. As a recognized leader in the research, diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer, we are well-positioned to provide our patients with access to a comprehensive array of options, including innovative clinical trials, and we never require referrals.