What are the risk factors for pancreatic cancer?


A risk factor is any factor that is associated with increasing someone’s chances of developing a certain condition, such as cancer. Some risk factors are modifiable, such as lifestyle or environmental risk factors, and others cannot be modified, such as inherited factors and whether someone in the family has had cancer. 

Having one or more risk factors does not mean that you will develop cancer. Many people have at least one risk factor but will never develop cancer, while others with cancer may have had no known risk factors. Even if a person with cancer has a risk factor, it is usually hard to know how much that risk factor contributed to the development of their disease. 

There are a number of factors that can increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. These factors include: 

  • smoking 
  • being overweight or obese 
  • exposure to certain chemicals and heavy metals found in pesticides, dyes and chemicals 
  • increasing age – most cases occur in adults over 60[3] and the average age at the time of diagnosis is 71 
  • being male – men are more likely than women to develop pancreatic cancer 
  • having a personal history of chronic pancreatitis[4] (inflammation of the pancreas) 
  • having a family history of pancreatitis[5], pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer or colon cancer[6] 
  • diabetes (especially type 2 diabetes) and long-term use of diabetes medicines[7] 
  • excessive alcohol consumption[8] and liver cirrhosis 
  • stomach infections with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, which causes stomach ulcers 
  • having certain genetic factors including[9][10] Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, familial pancreatitis, Lynch syndrome, hereditary breast-ovarian cancer syndrome, familial malignant melanoma syndrome (also known as melanoma-pancreatic cancer syndrome or familial atypical multiple mole melanoma syndrome), Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) syndrome, von Hippel-Lindau syndrome and ataxia-telangiectasia. 

Healthy lifestyle and risk reduction