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Are You at Risk for Pancreatic Cancer?

Written by Courteney

Posted on November 9, 2016 at 8:19 am

While some forms of cancer have early symptoms, pancreatic cancer is a silent killer that will claim an estimated 41,780 American lives in 2016 alone. So, what is known about this under-discussed form of cancer? Who is at risk, and can it be prevented? Let’s try to tackle some of these questions:

Who Should be Screened?

While it is true that pancreatic cancer can strike anyone, with or without risk factors, not everyone falls into the category of those who should undergo the in-depth screening process for pancreatic cancer. At risk individuals should most certainly be screened by a medical professional, as most times pancreatic cancer won’t cause any symptoms until the disease has advanced to the later, and less treatable stages.

Are Diabetics at Increased Risk for Pancreatic Cancer?

Yes. Particularly those over 50 with new-onset diabetes. According to University of Chicago Medicine, approximately 85% of those who develop pancreatic cancer have new-onset diabetes or hyperglycemia. These people have a 5-8 times the risk of developing pancreatic cancer within 3 years of their diabetes or hyperglycemia diagnosis.

Who Else is At Risk for Developing Pancreatic Cancer?

Aside from those with new-onset diabetics, people who fall into the ‘at risk’ category for developing pancreatic cancer include:

  • People who have two or more first-degree relatives with pancreatic cancer or who have one who was diagnosed under the age of 30
  • People who have had pancreatic cysts
  • Smokers are up to 3 times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than non-smokers
  • People who have chronic pancreatitis may be at higher risk
  • Those who have had hepatitis B or cirrhosis of the liver fall into the ‘at risk’ category
  • Those with high levels of the H. Pylori bacteria are at higher risk of developing some cancers, most commonly stomach cancer, but may also be at increase risk for pancreatic cancer
  • People who have been chronically exposed to certain chemicals such as benzene, petrochemicals or pesticides may be at increased risk
  • People with certain rare inherited risk-increasing syndromes are at higher risk

People who are over 50 years of age with any of the above-listed risk factors are at higher risk than those under 50 (90% of pancreatic cases occur in people older than 55), and more men go on to develop this form of cancer than women.

What Associated Syndromes Increase the Risk of Pancreatic Cancer?

According to the American Cancer Society, people with the following genetic syndromes may be at higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer:

  • Hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome (mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes)
  • Familial atypical multiple mole melanoma (FAMMM) syndrome
  • Lynch syndrome (also known as hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC)
  • Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (caused by mutated VHL gene)
  • Type 1 neurofibromatosis
  • Type 1 Multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN1)

That’s all for our look at the risk factors of pancreatic cancer. Stay tuned next for pancreatic cancer prevention tips. Thanks for visiting DocChat!



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