The exact causes of pancreatic cancer are still undetermined, but there are some known risk factors that can make a person more likely to get this disease.
Having a risk factor, or even several risk factors, does not mean that you will get the disease. And many people who get the disease may not have had any known risk factors.
Research has shown that some of these risk factors affect the DNA of cells in the pancreas, which can result in abnormal cell growth and may cause tumors to form.
- Age: Pancreatic cancer can strike at any age, but it occurs most often in men and women over 50 years old.
- Smoking: Smokers (and smokeless tobacco users) have a 2 to 10 times greater risk of developing pancreatic cancer than non-smokers.
- Obesity: Very overweight people are more likely to develop exocrine pancreatic cancer, as are people who don’t get much physical activity. Exercise lowers the risk of this cancer.
- Diet: A diet low in fruits, vegetables and fibre and high in fat may increase your risk.
- Type 2 Diabetes: Pancreatic cancer is more common in people with this disease. The reason for this link is not known. This type of diabetes most often starts in adulthood. It is often related to being overweight or obese.
- Chronic Pancreatitis: This means a long-term inflammation of the pancreas. This condition is linked with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer, but most patients with pancreatitis never develop pancreatic cancer. The link between chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer is strongest in smokers.