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Pancreatic Cancer Causes

Pancreatic cancer is a relatively rare form of cancer, and no one is certain what its underlying causes are. However, the following are considered risk factors:

Smoking. Smoking more than doubles one’s risk of pancreatic cancer. Therefore, quitting smoking may be a way of preventing the disease.

Lack of proper exercise and/or obesity. An increased risk of pancreatic cancer has also been linked to a sedentary lifestyle and being overweight. Daily exercise, and maintaining a healthy body weight, may also help to prevent pancreatic cancer.

Dietary factors. A diet high in red meat—particularly meat that has been highly processed, preserved, charcoal broiled, or grilled—apparently increases the risk of pancreatic cancer, according to research studies. Eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains could reduce the risk.

Exposure to chemicals. People who work at jobs where they are regularly exposed to pesticides, gasoline, asbestos, insecticides, or petroleum compounds may run an increased risk.

Family history. There appears to be a genetic component to pancreatic cancer. If someone in one’s immediate family has had pancreatic cancer, one’s own risk rises significantly. A family history of colon, breast, or ovarian cancer also increases ont’s risk.

Age, gender, ethnicity. Men run a higher risk than women. African Americans runner a higher risk than other ethnic groups. The majority of people who get pancreatic cancer are 60 years of age or older.

Chronic pancreatitis. Pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas, is a disease condition that has been linked to an increased risk for pancreatic cancer.


Metcalf, Eric, MPH. 2009. “Pancreatic Cancer: What Are the Risk Factors?” (Online)

National Institutes of Health. 2001. “What You Need to Know About Cancers of the Pancreas.” (Online booklet)

Mayo Clinic Staff. 2010. “Pancreatic Cancer: Prevention.” (Online)

Warner, Jennifer. 2005. “Red Meat May Raise Pancreatic Cancer Risk.” (Online),2933,171239,00.html

A.P. John Institute for Cancer Research. 2009. “Pancreatic Cancer.” (Online)

Morrow, Alina, MS. 2009. “Causes and Risk Factors for Pancreatic Cancer.” (Online)

Swierzewski, Stanley, M.D. 2008. “Pancreatic Cancer Risk Factors.” (Online)

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