PERSONAL RISK FACTORS

INCREASED AGE. The risk of developing pancreatic cancer increases with age. The majority of people who develop pancreatic cancer are older than 45.  However, adults of any age can be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

MEN MORE THAN WOMEN. Men are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than women; this may be secondary to poorer dietary habits and lifestyle choices.

RACE/ETHNICITY.  Ashkenazi Jews have a higher incidence of pancreatic cancer, probably due to common genetic mutations present in individuals of this background. African Americans are also more likely to develop pancreatic cancer compared to Asians, Hispanics, and Caucasians. The reasons for this discrepancy are thought to be related to differences in other risk factors such as diet, weight, and toxins (cigarette smoking).

SMOKING. Smokers are two to three times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than nonsmokers.  Smokers also develop pancreatic cancer years earlier with an accelerated (more aggressive) rate than nonsmokers.

DIET. High fat, low fiber diets have been associated with an increased risk of cancer.  A high fat (Western) diet is a risk factor for pancreatic cancer.

HEALTH RISK FACTORS

DIABETES. Many studies have indicated that diabetes, particularly for many years, increases the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

WEIGHT. Research has shown that obese and even overweight people have a higher risk of dying from pancreatic cancer. A person with a body mass index (BMI) above 25 is considered overweight.

CHRONIC PANCREATITIS. Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. People diagnosed with chronic (persistent or reoccuring) pancreatitis have an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Chronic pancreatitis can occur in people of any age. It is typically diagnosed in people who are 35-45 years old. It can be due to a number of factors including hereditary pancreatitis, trauma, gallstones, high level of triglycerides (fat) in the blood, or alcohol abuse.

HEREDITARY FACTORS

FAMILY HISTORY. Up to 15% of pancreatic cancers are believed to be inherited. The risk of developing pancreatic cancer increases by 2-3 times if a person’s first degree relatives (mom, dad, brother, sister, or child) had pancreatic cancer. The risk increases with the greater number of family members affected.

GENETICS. Inherited genetic mutations have been linked to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.  Some of these genes are also responsible for breast and ovarian cancer, and melanoma. Some of these hereditary conditions are as follows:

  • Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
  • Familial malignant melanoma and pancreatic cancer (FAMM-PC)
  • Hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) syndrome
  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome
  • Lynch syndrome
  • Peutz-Jeghers syndrome