Approximately 1.5% of individuals will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer during their lifetimes, making it overall fairly rare. There are many different causes and risk factors for developing pancreatic cancer, including genetics, environment, and chance. As with most cancers, a specific cause for the great majority of pancreatic cancers cannot be identified. Rather it is likely that there are multiple factors which play a part in the development of the cancer.
Ninety-five percent of pancreatic cancers occur in the exocrine cells (called pancreatic adenocarcinoma). A less common type of pancreatic cancer affects the hormone-producing cells, called islet cells, and is referred to as a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor (PNET).
Factors like alcohol use, physical inactivity, coffee, and diets that are high in red meat and processed meats are all proposed risk factors for pancreatic cancer, however these are still being investigated to more fully understand their role.
Most people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer do not have a family history of this cancer, however it can appear to cluster within families. Having a close relative with pancreatic cancer can increase one’s chances of developing this disease, but this increase is likely small overall.
As many as 10% of all pancreatic cancers may be due to a genetic risk factor and therefore it is recommended that all individuals with pancreatic cancer consider genetic counseling. Some hereditary predispositions to pancreatic cancer include:
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