Important risk factors of Pancreatic Cancer


What is the pancreas?

The pancreas is a large gland that lies behind the stomach, at the back of the tummy area (abdomen) – at about the same height as the bottom of the breastbone. It is about 15cm (6 inches) long and shaped a bit like a tadpole. It is often described as having a head, body and tail.

The pancreas has two main functions in the human body:

  1. It makes enzymes, which help to break down (digest) food. The cells that produce enzymes are called exocrine cells.
  2. It makes hormones, including insulin, which control the level of sugar in the blood (blood sugar level). The cells that produce hormones are called endocrine cells.

Risk Factors for pancreatic cancer:

  • Age

Current statistics show that 96% of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are over 50.

  • Smoking

Your risk of pancreatic cancer increases the more you smoke, and the longer you have smoked for.

  • Weight

Research shows that being overweight increases the risk of pancreatic cancer.

  • Family history of pancreatic cancer

It is not common for pancreatic cancer to run in families however it is possible.#

Chronic pancreatitis is long-term pancreatitis. It is usually caused by heavy drinking over many years. People with chronic pancreatitis have an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

  • Diabetes

People with diabetes may have a higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer. However, diabetes is common and most people with diabetes won’t get pancreatic cancer.


A risk factor is anything that will increase your chance of contracting a disease and although it is known that the causes of cancer are complex and could be caused by a variety of things, there is still ongoing research needed.

The above information has been sourced from Pancreatic Cancer UK and for more detailed information about pancreatic cancer, diagnosis and treatment please visit