When there is a cancer diagnosis, it’s natural to wonder what may have caused the disease. Doctors can’t always explain why one person gets pancreatic cancer and another doesn’t. However, we do know that people with certain risk factors may be more likely than others to develop cancer of the pancreas.
A risk factor is a variable associated with an increased risk of getting a disease. Some are controllable risk factors that can be changed, such as smoking or diet. Other risk factors are uncontrollable like age or family history. Having a risk factor, or even multiple, does not ensure that you will get cancer, just as some people with few or no risk factors may develop cancer.
Studies have found the following risk factors for cancer of the pancreas:
Inflammation of the pancreas
The risk factors for pancreatic cancer are under active study as we work towards prevention and early detection. Researchers are studying whether a diet high in fat (especially animal fat) or heavy alcohol consumption may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. Another area of active research is whether certain genes and genetic mutations increase the risk of disease.
Many people who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer have none of these risk factors, and many people who have known risk factors don’t develop the disease.