It’s not news to say there is no cure for cancer. Unfortunately, there’s also no guaranteed way to prevent cancer, either. Yet there are some factors that can increase the risk of developing cancer, including cancer of the pancreas.
Some of the risk factors for pancreatic cancer are out of our control. However, others may be linked to unhealthy lifestyle choices that can develop the risk over time.
The risk of a pancreatic cancer diagnosis increases as people age. More than 80 percent of pancreatic cancers develop between 60 and 80 years old, according to the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center from Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Cancer of the pancreas is a genetic disease, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. This means that it is caused by mutations in DNA. These changes can be hereditary or they can develop after we are born. The inherited changes explain why cancer of the pancreas runs in some families, and the acquired changes can be the result of either bad luck during cell replication or by exposure to carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals).
According to Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), almost a third of all pancreatic cancers are linked to smoking cigarettes. Tobacco products contain carcinogens that may damage the pancreas.
Moreover, smoking may add to the risks associated with other conditions, like long-term inflammation of the pancreas (chronic pancreatitis).
Exposure to workplace chemicals
The longer you work in an environment with certain chemicals, the more likely you are to develop pancreatic cancer. A 2015 study published in the journal Cancer Causes & Control examined participants over 14 years. Researchers found that exposure to pesticides, asbestos, benzene and chlorinated hydrocarbons may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology says obesity can be a risk factor for almost a dozen cancers on their website cancer.net. Some possible reasons for this link could include increased insulin, chronic inflammation, and the fat cells’ effect on processes that regulate cancer cell growth.
Heavy alcohol use
Although the link between alcohol use and pancreatic cancer risk isn’t widely confirmed, CTCA lists cirrhosis as a major risk factor. This scarring of the liver tends to develop with heavy drinkers.