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Causes of cancer of the pancreas

Whilst there is not direct single cause for pancreatic cancer, there may be factors that increase an individual’s risk of developing the disease.

 

Smoking

On average, a smoker has 2.5 times the risk of developing pancreatic cancer compared with a non-smoker; the risk increases with the number smoked. The risk falls if the smoker gives up, eventually returning to normal after 10 to15 years. Smoking may account for a quarter of deaths from pancreatic cancer.

 

Obesity

There is an increased risk of pancreatic cancer in obese individuals; especially if the Body Mass Index is greater than 30kg per meter squared (the body mass index is calculated by dividing the weight in kilograms by the height squared).

 

Diet, coffee and alcohol

There is no convincing evidence that these have a role in the development or protection against pancreatic cancer

 

Chronic pancreatitis

Patients with chronic pancreatitis, which is a long term inflammation of the pancreas form infection or heavy alcohol consumption, have a raised risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

 

Family member with pancreatic cancer

Between one in 10 and 20 patients with pancreatic cancer have a first degree relative (parent or sibling) who has had the disease as well. Sometimes a number of member of the same family have one of a group of cancers, of which pancreatic cancer is one. In such families, the disease sometimes occurs at a younger than average age, and its development is more strongly linked to smoking.


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