Pancreatic Cancer Blog Risk Factors

What To Know About Pancreatic Cancer Risk Factors

  • About 1 in 64. That’s how many people will get pancreatic cancer during their lifetime. No one knows exactly why some people develop this cancer—or how to avoid it.

    At Fox Chase Cancer Center, a research team led by surgical oncologist Sanjay S. Reddy, MD, FACS, is studying how diet and lifestyle—including where we live and our access to healthy food and recreation—influence pancreatic cancer.  

    Dr. Reddy’s research will compare tissue samples collected from pancreatic cancer patients to questionnaire data about their diet and lifestyles, including stress levels, alcohol use, and access to green spaces. The research could shed light on how a person’s environment affects the way pancreatic cancer develops, progresses, and responds to treatment.  

    “Understanding the relationship of pancreatic cancer to the entire environment—not just your environment on the outside, but your internal environment—holds a lot of promise,” Dr. Reddy said.  

    What raises pancreatic cancer risk? 

    Knowing your risk may help you reduce it—or help you find cancer earlier, when it’s easier to treat. 

    We don’t yet know what causes pancreatic cancers. But certain things may raise your risk. For instance, the risk of getting pancreatic cancer increases after age 45. It’s also higher for men than women and for Black people than white people.  

    Other factors that might affect pancreatic cancer risk include: 

    Tobacco use.

    People who smoke are nearly twice as likely to have pancreatic cancer as those who don’t smoke.  

    Excess weight.

    The risk of pancreatic cancer climbs for people who have obesity, those who gain weight as adults, and those who carry excess weight around their waist.  


    The risk may increase the longer a person has diabetes.  

    Chronic pancreatitis.

    Chronic pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas over a long period of time. People who drink a lot of alcohol tend to have higher rates of this condition.   

    Family history and genetics.

    Some pancreatic cancers may be due to changes in genes that are passed down from parents.  

    Workplace chemicals.

    Exposure to certain chemicals may raise the risk of pancreatic cancer. These include pesticides, benzene, and certain dyes.  

    Diet and lifestyle habits.

    Certain dietary habits, such as eating a lot of red and processed meats, are linked to a higher risk of pancreatic cancer. And some studies suggest that not getting enough exercise may also raise this risk.  

    Protect your pancreas  

    While there’s no surefire way to prevent pancreatic cancer, you might be able to reduce your risk by:  

    ● Not smoking. If you need help quitting, ask your doctor.  

    ● Maintaining a healthy weight. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can help you reach or maintain a healthy weight.  

    ● Knowing the risks of alcohol. If you choose to drink, stick to moderate alcohol use. That’s two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.  

    Connect with experts in pancreatic cancer research and treatment  

    Fox Chase is our region’s only cancer center to be designated as both a Clinical and Academic Center of Excellence for Pancreatic Cancer by the National Pancreas Foundation. Our pancreatic cancer program offers innovative treatments, like the Whipple procedure; clinical trials; and genetic testing to help people assess their individual risks of getting pancreatic cancer.  

    To schedule an appointment, call 877.627.9684 or request an appointment online.