Strange Causes Of Pancreatic Cancer That Might Surprise You

Pancreatic cancer is fundamentally a disease caused by damage to the DNA. This damage is often referred to as mutations. These mutations can be inherited from mom or dad, or they can be acquired as we age. First, let us look at the inherited mutations. Remember that we have two copies of each gene – one copy we inherit from our mother, the other copy we inherit from our father.

  • Cigarette smoking:Cigarette smoking doubles the risk of pancreatic cancer. In fact, some scientists have estimated that one in four, or one in five cases of pancreatic cancer are caused by smoking cigarettes. Smoking is also associated with early age at diagnosis. Very importantly, the risk of pancreatic cancer drops close to normal in people who quit smoking. Simply put, cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of pancreatic cancer.
  • Age: The risk of developing pancreatic cancer increases with age. Over 80% of pancreatic cancers develop between the ages of 60 and 80 years.
  • Race: Studies in the United States have shown that pancreatic cancer is more common in the African American population than it is in the white population. Some of this increased risk may be due to socioeconomic factors and to cigarette smoking.
  • Gender: Cancer of the pancreas is more common in men than in women. Men are more likely to smoke than women.
  • Religious background: Pancreatic cancer is proportionally more common in Ashkenazi Jews than the rest of the population. This may be because of a particular inherited mutation in the breast cancer gene (BRCA2)which runs in some Ashkenazi Jewish families.
  • Chronic pancreatitis: Long-term (chronic) inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) has been linked to cancer of the this cancer.
  • Diabetes mellitus: Diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes) can be a symptom of this cancer, and long-standing adult-onset diabetes also increases the risk of pancreatic cancer.
  • ases the risk of this cancer. Believe it or not, it has been estimated that 8% of cancers are related to obesity.
  • Diet: Diets high in meats, cholesterol, fried foods and nitrosamines may increase risk, while diets high in fruits and vegetables reduce risk. The vitamin folate may be protective.
  • Genetics: As mentioned earlier, a number of inherited cancer syndromes increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. These include the breast cancer syndrome (BRCA2 and PALB2), familial atypical multiple mole melanoma syndrome (FAMMM), Lynch syndrome (also known as hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer syndrome), and the Peutz-Jeghers syndrome. More information about these syndromes is provided in the genetics section of this web page and on the web site of the National Familial Pancreas