Pancreatic Cancer: Risk Factors

When you receive a diagnosis of cancer, it’s natural to wonder what may have caused the disease. Doctors can’t always explain why one person gets pancreatic cancer and another doesn’t. However, we do know that people with certain risk factors may be more likely than others to develop cancer of the pancreas.

Studies have found the following risk factors for cancer of the pancreas…


Smoking tobacco is the most important risk factor for pancreatic cancer. People who smoke tobacco are more likely than nonsmokers to develop this disease. Heavy smokers are the most at risk. Why wouldn’t hearing something like this make you want to ditch your cigarettes?

These days, there are really no excuses as to why you cannot give up something that you know is bad for you. As with anything that can have an negative impact on your health, it is best to take the approach of giving it up. If there are no health benefits to it, it is certainly not worth it.


People with type II diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes, are more likely than other people to develop pancreatic cancer over time.


Having a mother, father, sister, or brother with pancreatic cancer increases the risk of developing the disease by 2-3 times.


Pancreatitis is a painful inflammation of the pancreas. Having pancreatitis for a long time (called chronic pancreatitis) may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.


People who are overweight or obese are slightly more likely than other people to develop pancreatic cancer. 


African-Americans have a higher incidence of pancreatic cancer compared to individuals of Asian, Hispanic or Caucasian descent.

Many other possible risk factors are under active study. For example, researchers are studying whether a diet high in fat (especially animal fat) or heavy drinking of alcoholic beverages may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. Another area of active research is whether certain genes increase the risk of disease.

Talk with your doctor about your risks for Pancreatic Cancer. Being proactive and taking control of your health is the first step in early detection and prevention.

Source: Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research,