Pancreatic Cancer Causes and Risk Factors
It is still unknown exactly what causes most cases of pancreatic cancers. However, some risk factors have been linked to an increased chance of being diagnosed with the disease.
Recent research has shown that some of these risk factors, such as smoking or heavy drinking, can affect the DNA of cells in the pancreas, which can lead to abnormal cell growth and may cause tumors to form. These risk factors include the following:
- Substance abuse
- Various environmental factors
While there is no way to prevent cancer of the pancreas, minimizing these risk factors can help to reduce the chances of developing a diagnosis. Smoking increases the risk of getting cancer of the pancreas by two to three times. People who use spitting or chewing tobacco are also more likely to get pancreatic cancer. Alcohol abuse also contributes greatly to an increase in pancreatic cancer. Cirrhosis is a condition of the scarring of the liver. It happens in people with liver damage from things like hepatitis and alcohol use. People with cirrhosis seem to have an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.
There may be a link between pancreatic cancer and a high-fat diet that includes a large amount of red meat, pork, and processed meat. Some studies have found that diets high in fruits and vegetables may help reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer. But not all studies have found such links, and the exact role of diet in pancreatic cancer is still under study. Similarly, very overweight people are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, as are those who do not exercise regularly.
Related to obesity, persons who are diagnosed with diabetes typically have a more common occurrence of pancreatic cancer than the general population.
Environmental factors also play somewhat of a factor. Be especially aware of any prolonged contact or interaction with pesticides or chemicals.
Some things are outside of your control, however. A family history of this type of cancer increases the risks of developing a diagnosis. Additionally, age is a contributing factor as almost 90% of patients with pancreatic cancer are older than 55 years old.
Furthermore, the average age of patients at the time of diagnosis is 72 years old. Men have a greater chance than women of developing pancreatic cancer. African-Americans, too, have a statistically greater chance of diagnosis compared to other subsets of the population. In these cases, it is important to speak with your doctor about screen procedures to monitor your risk.