Pancreatic Cancer Causes, Risk Factors and Prevention

Understanding your risk for pancreatic cancer is an important first step in prevention or early diagnosis. Our team of pancreatic cancer experts is dedicated to helping you identify your risk and evaluate your symptoms to develop the best individualized treatment plan.

What Causes Pancreatic Cancer?

The exact cause of pancreatic cancer is unknown.  A risk factor is anything that increases your chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Some risk factors, like smoking can be changed. Others, like a person’s age or family history, cannot be changed. 

Risk Factors for Pancreatic Cancer

Risk factors that can be changed include:

  • Smoking and tobacco use: People who smoke are about twice as likely to develop pancreatic cancer.
  • Obesity: Being very overweight with a body mass index (BMI) over 30 are 20% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer.
  • Chronic pancreatitis: A long-term inflammation of the pancreas is often seen with heavy alcohol use.

Other risk factors that cannot be changed include:

  • Age: The risk of pancreatic cancer increases with age with two-thirds of people diagnosed over the age of 65.
  • Gender: Men are slightly more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than women.
  • Race: African Americans are slightly more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than Caucasians.
  • Family History: Hereditary genetic changes may account for approximately 10% of pancreatic cancers.

How to Prevent Pancreatic Cancer

While you can’t prevent pancreatic cancer, there are things you can do to lower your risk, including:

  • Stop smoking
  • Limit alcohol use
  • Eat healthily and exercise
  • Limit exposure to certain chemicals

If you have questions about your risk factors or how to prevent pancreatic cancer, talk with your doctor.