Am I At Risk for Pancreatic Cancer?

There is no way to know for sure if you’re going to get pancreatic cancer. And there is no known way to prevent it. Certain factors can make you more likely to get this type of cancer than another person. These are called risk factors. Some risk factors, such as age or family history, are out of your control. Other risk factors, such as smoking and diet, can be controlled. Here are the most common risk factors for pancreatic cancer.

I smoke or have smoked in the past.

Smoking is a risk factor for many types of cancer. It is also a risk factor for pancreatic cancer.

My diet isn’t well balanced.

Your risk of pancreatic cancer is higher if you eat a lot of fat, don’t eat many fruits or vegetables, or drink a lot of alcohol.

I am over age 50.

Your risk of getting pancreatic cancer is higher if you are over 50 years old. Most people with pancreatic cancer are diagnosed when they are over age 60.

I have had diabetes for a long time.

If you have had diabetes for a long time, your risk of pancreatic cancer is greater. Researchers are not yet sure how diabetes and pancreatic cancer are linked.

I have chronic swelling of my pancreas (called pancreatitis).

Having pancreatitis for many years increases your risk of pancreatic cancer. The most common cause of chronic pancreatitis is drinking a lot of alcohol for many years. Sometimes you can inherit pancreatitis from your parents or grandparents. If you have inherited pancreatitis, your risk of getting pancreatic cancer is higher. About 40 to 75 percent of people with inherited pancreatitis develop pancreatic cancer.

Others in my family have had pancreatic cancer.

If others in your family have had pancreatic cancer, your risk for getting it is higher. About 5 to 10 percent of people with pancreatic cancer inherited the tendency to develop this cancer. If you have inherited this tendency, lifestyle risks such as smoking, eating a high-fat diet, and using cancer-causing chemicals increase your risk even more.

I have worked with chemicals.

Exposure to some kinds of pesticides, dyes, and dry cleaning solutions may raise your risk of getting pancreatic cancer.

Medical Reviewer: [Alteri, Rick MD, Coleman, JoAnn RN, MS, ACNP, AOCN®, Kanipe, Jennifer RN, BSN, Lee, James J. MD, PhD, Stump-Sutliff, Kim RN, MSN, AOCNS] Last Annual Review Date: 2011-02-01T00:00:00-07:00 Copyright: © 2007 CancerSource, 280 Summer Street, 9th Floor, Boston, MA 02210. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.

More Information on Cancer