Risk Factors

Most people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are over the age of 65. There is no single cause of pancreatic cancer, but some factors increase the risk of developing it, including 1:

  • Smoking
    • About 20%–30% of pancreatic cancers are related to smoking tobacco. The risk increases with the number of cigarettes and the number of years you smoke.
  • Obesity
  • Occupational exposure to certain chemicals
  • Having diabetes
    • Pancreatic cancer is more common in people with diabetes, but the reason for this connection is not fully understood. It may be that obesity is a risk for both diabetes and pancreatic cancer, or diabetes may be an early sign of pancreatic cancer.
  • Having an inherited disorder, such as:
    • Hereditary Pancreatitis
      • A rare genetic condition that causes severe pancreatitis at a young age, often before a child is 10 years old. Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas.
    • Hereditary non-polyposis Colon Cancer (HNPCC)
      • A rare inherited syndrome that may lead to colorectal cancer. People with type B Lynch syndrome have a higher risk of developing certain cancers, including pancreatic cancer.
    • Peutz-Jeghers syndrome
      • An inherited syndrome that causes a very large number of polyps to develop in the gastrointestinal tract. It also causes dark spots on the lips and around and inside the mouth.
    • Familial atypical multiple mole melanoma syndrome (FAMMM, also called atypical mole syndrome)
      • An inherited condition that usually affects several members of a family. Family members with FAMMM develop melanoma skin cancer and many atypical moles. The moles are usually different sizes and shades.

1 Canadian Cancer Society