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What are the Causes and Risk Factors for Pancreatic Cancer?

Pancreatic cancer can be described as an aggressive cancer in which patients don’t even survive 5 years post detection. The signs and symptoms can be simple such as a common stomach and backache, unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, fatigue, jaundice, difficulty in swallowing food or recently diagnosed diabetes. These simple signs and symptoms may be ignored by many and you may miss the signs of Pancreatic Cancer. This type of cancer is not that common however is usually detected in the later stages, compounding the issue and complicating the matters. It is hence important to be aware and take precautionary steps.

Risk Factors for Pancreatic cancer are:

  • Tobacco:
    Smoking is one of the most important risk factors for pancreatic cancer. The risk of getting pancreatic cancer is almost the twice as high among smokers compared to non-smokers. About 20% to 30% of pancreatic cancers are thought to be caused by cigarette smoking. Cigar and pipe smoking also increases risk, as does the use of smokeless tobacco products.
  • Overweight and obesity:
    Very overweight (obese) people are about 20% more likely to develop this type of cancer.  It is hence important to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Workplace exposure to certain chemicals:
    Exposure to chemicals such as benzene or chemicals used in dry leaning increase the risk of the patients to suffer from cancer. It is important that such people working in a hazardous condition that have access to such materials get a regular checkup done.
  • Age:
    The risk of developing pancreatic cancer raise as people age. Almost all patients are older than 45. About two-thirds are at least 65 years old.
  • Family history:
    In some of these families, the risk is due to inherited syndrome. Although family history is a risk factor, most people who get pancreatic cancer do not have a family history of it.
  • Inherited genetic syndromes:
    Inherited gene changes or mutation can be passed from parents to the child. These gene changes may cause a risk of 10% of pancreatic cancers. Sometimes these changes result in syndromes that include increased risks of other cancers also.
  • Diabetes:
    The disease is more common in people who have diabetes. Most of the risk is found in people suffering from 2 diabetes. This type of diabetes most often starts in adulthood and is often related to being overweight or obese.
  • Chronic pancreatitis:
    Chronic pancreatitis, a long-term inflammation of the pancreas, is highly linked with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer, but most people with pancreatitis never develop pancreatic cancer.
  • Cirrhosis of the liver:
    Cirrhosis is a scarring of the liver. It develops in people with liver damage from hepatitis or heavy use of alcohol. People with cirrhosis seem to have an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.
  • Stomach problems:
    Infection of the stomach with the ulcer-causing bacteria may increase the risk of getting pancreatic cancer.
  • Alcohol:
    Heavy alcohol use can lead to conditions such as chronic pancreatitis and cirrhosis, which are known to increase pancreatic cancer risk.