Pancreatic Cancer Risk Factors

By 2020, pancreatic cancer is expected to be the second leading cause of cancer death, according to the American Cancer Society. In 2016, they estimate 53,070 adults (27,670 men and 25,400 women) in the United States will be diagnosed with the disease.

Illustration of the pancreas

Image courtesy WebMD

Risk factors

  • Cigarette smoking – doubles the risk of pancreatic cancer
  • Age – 80 percent of pancreatic cancer patients develop the disease between ages 60 and 80
  • Race – the disease is more common about African Americans than it is among Caucasians
  • Gender – the disease is more common in men that women
  • Religious background – due to a genetic mutation, the disease is more common among Ashkenazi Jews
  • Chronic pancreatitis – long-term inflammation has been linked to the disease
  • Diabetes mellitus – can be a symptom of pancreatic cancer; long-term adult-onset diabetes also may increase the risk of developing the disease
  • Obesity – excess weight significantly increases the risk of pancreatic cancer
  • Diet – those high in meats, cholesterol, fried foods and cured meats may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer
  • Genetics – the breast cancer syndrome (BRCA2 and PALB2), familial atypical multiple mole melanoma syndrome (FAMMM), Lynch syndrome (also known as hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer syndrome), and the Peutz-Jeghers syndrome all increase risk

The Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center at The Johns Hopkins University offers detailed information on the above risk factors, including hereditary/genetic factors.

In addition, the National Familial Pancreas Tumor Registry (NFPTR) at the Goldman Center may be helpful.