What are the risk factors for pancreatic cancer?

One of the main risk factors for pancreatic cancer is having a family history of the disease. Inherited syndromes – including Lynch syndrome, von Hippel-Lindau syndrome and hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome – have been linked to pancreatic cancer. Our genetic counseling and testing team can help test for mutations and determine whether you have an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

Other factors that may increase risk of pancreatic cancer include:

  • Smoking or using tobacco
  • Being African-American. African-Americans are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer compared to Hispanics, Caucasians or Asian-Americans.
  • Being older than 55
  • Being obese
  • Having a personal history of diabetes
  • Having chronic pancreatitis
  • Being exposed to cancer-causing chemicals, including pesticides, dyes, asbestos and petrochemicals

What can you do to prevent pancreatic cancer?

There is no guaranteed way to prevent cancer. However, you can reduce your risk for pancreatic cancer by:

  • Not using tobacco. Speak with your doctor if you need help quitting.
  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating a healthy diet, which includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy. Talk with your doctor or a nutritionist about what you should include in a healthy diet.
  • Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink.
  • Keeping a healthy weight. Ask your doctor what a healthy weight is for you.
  • Asking your doctor about genetic testing. If you have a family history of pancreatic cancer, you may have an inherited condition that increases your risk for disease.
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