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Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine

 
Risk factors

Most scientists agree that these things affect the risk of pancreatic cancer. Some may apply to you, but others may not.

Age
Sex
Height
Weight
Tobacco use
Vegetables
Diabetes
Chronic pancreatitis
Family history



Age and pancreatic cancer
The risk of pancreatic cancer goes up with age. The disease is rare in people under 45, and the average age when the disease is found is 72.

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Sex and pancreatic cancer
Men have a greater risk of pancreatic cancer than women. This difference, though, is getting smaller over time in the United States. This may be related to cancer risk factors, like smoking, that are becoming more common in women.

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Height and pancreatic cancer
Tall people have a higher risk of pancreatic cancer. Researchers don’t know exactly why, but it may be related to the fact that tall people grow more. Some of the same hormones and other factors that make people grow may also increase the chance that dividing cells become abnormal and turn cancerous.

Weight and pancreatic cancer
People who maintain a healthy weight have a lower risk of pancreatic cancer. One reason may be that being overweight or obese can lead to blood sugar problems. And blood sugar problems, like diabetes, have been shown to increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.

People who maintain a healthy weight also have a lower risk of kidney cancer, heart disease, pancreatic cancer, diabetes and stroke, And women have a lower risk of breast cancer, and uterine cancer.




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Tobacco use and pancreatic cancer
People who smoke cigarettes have a higher risk of pancreatic cancer. Cigarette smoke contains dangerous chemicals that damage the genetic structure (DNA) of the body's cells and can lead to cancer.

In addition to pancreatic cancer, people who smoke also have a higher risk of many other types of cancer, including leukemia and cancers of the lung, lip, mouth, tongue, larynx, esophagus, bladder, stomach, and kidney. Smokers also have a higher risk of other diseases like heart disease, diabetes, bone loss (osteoporosis), emphysema and bronchitis.


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Vegetables and pancreatic cancer
People who eat at least 3 servings of vegetables per day have a lower risk of pancreatic cancer. Scientists don’t know exactly which factors provide the protection because vegetables contain many different combinations of healthy elements like antioxidants and fiber

1 serving is:

  • 1 cup of raw leafy greens like lettuce or spinach
  • ½ cup of other vegetables, raw or cooked
  • ½ cup of cooked beans or peas
People who eat vegetables also have a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

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Diabetes and pancreatic cancer
People who have diabetes have a higher risk of pancreatic cancer. Normally, the pancreas makes insulin (a hormone) that helps the body control blood sugar and use it for energy. When the pancreas stops making insulin or the body can’t use the insulin properly, the blood sugar gets out of control and this is called diabetes. Diabetes may be a sign that the cells in the pancreas are not working properly, but it is not clear yet exactly how diabetes is linked to pancreatic cancer.

People who have diabetes also have a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. Women who have diabetes also have a higher risk of uterine cancer.

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Chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer
Chronic pancreatitis occurs when there are abnormal changes and scarring in the pancreas. Chronic pancreatitis occurs for many different reasons, like alcohol abuse, gall stones, infection or other diseases. These abnormal changes in the cells of the pancreas may lead to cancer over time.

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Family history and pancreatic cancer
People who have a close relative (mother, father, brother, or sister) with pancreatic cancer have a higher risk of the disease. This is because some pancreatic cancer is linked to mutations in the genetic structure (DNA) of the body's cells that can be passed from generation to generation.

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