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Pancreatic Cancer

Causes of Pancreatic Cancer

Researchers do not know the cause or causes of most cases of pancreatic cancer, but they have found several risk factors associated with this disease.

  • Age: The overwhelming majority of pancreatic cancer patients are over the age of 45; nearly 90 percent are over age 55, and 70 percent are over the age of 65. The average age at diagnosis is 72.
  • Chronic pancreatitis: Long-term inflammation of the pancreas is associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer, although most pancreatitis patients do not develop pancreatic cancer.
  • Smoking: Individuals who smoke cigarettes are two to three times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those who do not.
  • Diabetes: Individuals with diabetes (especially type 2, which starts in adulthood and is associated with being overweight or obese) are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer.
  • Diet: People who eat diets high in fat, sugar, red meat, pork and processed meats have an increased chance of developing pancreatic cancer.
  • Gender: Men have a slightly higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer than women, perhaps because of increased tobacco use among men.
  • Genetics: Up to 10 percent of pancreatic cancer cases may be linked to inherited DNA changes; individuals with the inherited form of chronic pancreatitis have between a 40 and 75 percent chance of developing pancreatic cancer.  
  • Obesity: Overweight and inactive individuals are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer.
  • Occupational exposure: Frequent exposure to pesticides, dyes and chemicals used in metal refining may increase a person’s risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
  • Ethnicity: African Americans have a greater chance of developing pancreatic cancer than Caucasians.
  • Stomach problems: Infection of the stomach with the ulcer-causing bacteria Helicobacter pylori may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.
  • Coffee and alcohol consumption: There is some evidence, though not conclusive, that alcohol and caffeine consumption are linked to pancreatic cancer. 

Locations for Pancreatic Cancer