Pancreatic Cancer Risk Factors

Early detection is the key.

Pancreatic cancer is often detected in the late stages because there is no routine or consistent screening method available. It’s important to know your potential risk factors and your family history. Individuals with a strong familial history of the disease may be candidates for annual testing including endoscopic ultrasound or an MRI. Knowing your risk factors helps you be the best advocate for your health care.

Pancreatic Cancer Association of Western New York, PCA WNY, chart of pancreatic cancer risk factors, early detection, cancer screening, at risk for pancreatic cancer

Image courtesy of Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

Family History

Approximately 10% of pancreatic cancer cases are related to a family history of the disease. Individuals who smoke and have a family history of pancreatic cancer are at risk of developing pancreatic cancer up to 10 years earlier than their previously diagnosed family member(s).


African-Americans have a higher incidence of pancreatic cancer compared to individuals of Asian, Hispanic or Caucasian descent. There is also a higher incidence of pancreatic cancer among Ashkenazi Jews, possibly due to a mutation involving the breast cancer (BRCA2) gene that is found in about 1% of individuals of this background.


A diet high in red meats, animal fats, processed meats, and carbohydrates is thought to increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. A diet high in fruits and vegetables may decrease the risk.


Smoking is a significant risk factor. It may cause about 20 – 30% of all exocrine pancreatic cancer cases. People who smoke cigarettes are 2 times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than people who have never smoked.


Pancreatic cancer is 2 times more likely to occur in people who have diabetes than in people who do not have diabetes.


For people who are considered clinically obese, there may be a significantly increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer.


Chronic or hereditary pancreatitis, particularly at a younger age, increases the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.


Slightly more men are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer than women.

Didn't find what you're looking for? Learn more here.