Risk Factors for Pancreatic Cancer

The risk for pancreatic cancer increases with age. The disease is relatively rare in people who are younger than age 40, and most patients are diagnosed after the age of 45. About 90 percent of patients with the disease are older than 55 years and about 70 percent are older than age 65.

Environmental factors, medical/surgical factors, genetic factors, and occupational exposures also can increase the risk for pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer risk factors include the following:

  • Age
  • Race–Pancreatic cancer is more common in African Americans than in Caucasians.
  • Smoking–Smokers develop pancreatic cancer more than twice as often as nonsmokers.
  • Diet–Frequency of pancreatic cancer may be associated with high intakes of meat and fat.
  • Medical factors–Pancreatic cancer is more common in patients who have a history of cirrhosis (chronic liver disease), chronic pancreatitis, diabetes, and surgery to the upper digestive tract.
  • Environmental factors–Long-term exposure to certain chemicals, such as gasoline and related compounds, as well as certain insecticides, may increase the risk of developing cancer of the pancreas.
  • Genetic factors–Genetic mutations (e.g., BRCA2 gene mutation, PRSS1 gene mutation, KRAS gene mutation, hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer [HNPCC; Lynch syndrome], Peutz-Jeghers syndrome) can increase the risk for pancreatic cancer. Other genetic factors may decrease this risk.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 14 Aug 1999

Last Modified: 29 Sep 2015