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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 sure way to prevent it, although you may be able to lower your risk. 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, race, 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.

Some studies suggest that 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. Some studies have also suggested there may be an increased risk if you eat a lot of red meat, pork, or processed meats.

I am over age 55.

Your risk of getting pancreatic cancer increases as you get older. Most people with pancreatic cancer are diagnosed when they are over age 55.

I am male.

Men are slightly more likely to get pancreatic cancer than women, although the difference isn't as large as it used to be.

I am African-American.

African-Americans have a higher risk of getting pancreatic cancer than white Americans.

I have type 2 diabetes.

If you have type 2 diabetes (the type that usually starts in adulthood), your risk of pancreatic cancer is greater. Researchers are not yet sure how diabetes and pancreatic cancer are linked.

I am very overweight.

Very overweight or obese people are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer. So are people who don't get much exercise.

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

Having pancreatitis for many years increases your risk of 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 10% of people with pancreatic cancer inherited the tendency to develop this cancer, sometimes through a known genetic syndrome such as Lynch syndrome. 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 certain chemicals.

Exposure to some kinds of pesticides, dyes, and chemicals used in metal refining may raise your risk of getting pancreatic cancer.

I eat charred, well-done meat on a regular basis.

Meats cooked at high temperatures form chemicals that may cause cancer. Eating these meats on a regular basis has been linked to an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer. 

Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Welch, Annette, MNS, OCN
Last Review Date: 3/25/2014
© 2013 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.