Last updated date: 13-Dec-2021
3 mins read
Pancreatic cancer is a disease whereby malignant cancerous cell form in the pancreas, an organ located in the abdomen, behind the stomach and in front of the spine, which helps in digestion and regulates blood sugar levels. It is a very important organ and cancer can be often deadly. While the exact cause(s) are not well known, it is often believed that factors such as smoking, diabetes, obesity, and genetic disorders are contributing factors to developing pancreatic cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, these are the factors that may increase the chance that a person might develop pancreatic cancer:
Tobacco smoking. Tobacco smoking is one of the top risk factors for pancreatic cancer. The risk is roughly twice as high for tobacco smokers versus non-smokers, contributing to about 25% of pancreatic cancers. The risk for developing the disease begins to drop if one stops smoking.
Obesity. Obesity is a risk factor for pancreatic cancer. Obese people with a BMI of 30 or more are about 20% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer. Gaining weight as an adult and an increased waistline are also factors that increase the likelihood of developing pancreatic cancer.
Diabetes. While the reason is not known, people with diabetes, particularly type 2, are at an increased risk for developing pancreatic cancer. This type of risk is growing as children and adults are increasingly obese and prone to developing diabetes.
Chronic pancreatitis. Chronic pancreatitis, a long-term inflammation of the pancreas associated with heavy alcohol and tobacco use, is linked with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.
Exposure to certain chemicals. Heavy exposure to certain chemicals used in the dry cleaning and metalworking industries may increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
Age. The risk of developing pancreatic cancer goes up with age. Virtually all diagnosed cases are older than 45, roughly two-thirds are at least 65 years old, and the average age is 70.
Gender. Men are slightly more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than women, which may be due to higher use of tobacco products by men.
Race. African Americans are slightly more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than whites, possibly due to having higher rates of some other risk factors for pancreatic cancer, such as diabetes, smoking , and obesity.
DNA. Pancreatic cancer seems to occur more often in some families. Inherited gene mutations can be passed from parent to child. These genetic changes may be the cause for approximately 10% of pancreatic cancers.
In addition to the above-mentioned causes, here are some that are yet unproven but possibly contributing factors to the development of pancreatic cancer:
Diet. Diets that are high in red meats, processed meats (canned meats, sausages, bacon, etc.), saturated fats, and sugars may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.
Physical inactivity. Some research has suggested that lack of physical activity may increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Regular physical activity may help reduce such risk.
Coffee. Some older studies have suggested that coffee drinking may increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer, but more recent studies were not in agreement.
Alcohol. Some studies have shown a link between heavy alcohol drinking and pancreatic cancer. Heavy alcohol use can also lead to chronic pancreatitis, which is known to increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
Infections. Some studies suggest that stomach infections by the ulcer-causing bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) or Hepatitis B may increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
While there is no way to prevent all pancreatic cancers, there are things you can do that could lower the risk of ever developing pancreatic cancers. Ceasing to smoke, avoiding harmful foods such as those high in sugars, living an active lifestyle, drinking coffee or alcohol in moderation (or none at all), and avoiding exposure to harmful chemicals are things one can do to lower the chances.
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