About 8,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the UK each year.
It is not known exactly what causes it to develop, and research into this is ongoing. Like all cancers, pancreatic cancer isn’t infectious and can’t be passed on to other people.
Things that can increase your risk of developing a disease are called risk factors.
Risk factors for pancreatic cancer include:
- – Age ~ most common in people over 65 but generally beyond middle age your risks of getting pancreatic cancer increase.
- – Smoking ~ 30% of the suffers of pancreatic cancer smoke so this may also be a risk factor.
- – Diet ~ A diet high in red meat, processed meat, fat and or sugar and low in fruit and vegetables may also be a risk factor.
- – Alcohol ~ Large amounts of alcohol regularly may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer especially in those that smoke.
- – Diabetes & Chronic Pancreatitis ~ People with these conditions have a higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
Family History ~ Most people who develop pancreatic cancer have no history of pancreatic cancer in their family. But about 5–10 out of every 100 cases of pancreatic cancer (5–10%) may be linked to faulty genes that can run in families. If two or more people on the same side of a family have pancreatic cancer, this may be a sign that other people in the family are at an increased risk too. People who have the faulty breast cancer gene BRCA2 or the condition Lynch syndrome/HNPCC (hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer) may have a higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Members of families with a tendency to have large numbers of unusual moles (FAMMM – Familial Atypical Multiple Mole Melanoma) also have an increased risk of cancer of the pancreas. People with Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (PJS) have an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer. PJS is a condition that causes multiple growths (polyps) in the digestive tract and dark spots on the skin of the face and hands. If you may be at a higher risk of pancreatic cancer because of your family history, you can be referred to a specialist clinic for advice. At the clinic your risk will be carefully assessed. People who are at a significantly increased risk may be offered regular screening tests to try to detect cancer of the pancreas early if it does occur.
The best way to screen for pancreatic cancer hasn’t yet been established, so screening may be offered as part of a research trial.