A risk factor is any factor that is associated with increasing someone’s chances of developing a certain condition, such as cancer. Some risk factors are modifiable, such as lifestyle or environmental risk factors, and others cannot be modified, such as inherited factors and whether someone in the family has had cancer.
Having 1 or more risk factors does not mean that you will develop cancer. Many people have at least 1 risk factor but will never develop cancer, while others with cancer may have had no known risk factors. Even if a person with cancer has a risk factor, it is usually hard to know how much that risk factor contributed to the development of their disease.
Factors that are associated with a higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer include:
- overweight and obesity
- exposure to certain pesticides, dyes and chemicals used in metal refining
- age – the risk increases with age, and the average age at the time of diagnosis is 71
- sex of the person – men are more likely than women to develop pancreatic cancer
- family history – some genetic (inherited) syndromes are associated with increased risk; in other cases, the genetic change that causes the cancer to run in families is not known
- diabetes (especially type 2 diabetes) – pancreatic cancer can also cause diabetes by damaging the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas
- chronic pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
- liver cirrhosis
- stomach infections with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, which causes stomach ulcers.
Find out more:
Lifestyle and risk reduction
Position Statement on Lifestyle risk factors and the primary prevention of cancer
- American Cancer Society (2015). Pancreatic cancer http://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreaticcancer/detailedguide/index (accessed 5 May 2015).
- National Cancer Institute (2015). Pancreatic cancer treatment (PDQ®) http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/pancreatic/Patient, patient version (accessed 5 May 2015).