Skip to content

Habits Secretly Increasing Your Pancreatic Cancer Risk, Say Physicians

This is what raises the risk of pancreatic cancer, doctors warn.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Pancreatic cancer is responsible for 3% of all cancers in the U.S., and approximately 7% of all cancer deaths. "Cancer is a complex set of diseases. For some, lifestyle can play an important role, and is one aspect of the disease that we have some control over," says Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK's director of early diagnosis. "Pancreatic cancer is a disease with poor outcomes and is less well understood, so it's important that we talk about the things people can do to stack the odds in their favor and reduce their risk." Here are five habits increasing your risk of pancreatic cancer. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Chronic Pancreatitis

Doctor in white medical lab coat points ballpoint pen on anatomical model of human or animal pancreas

Chronic pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) is strongly linked to pancreatic cancer, experts warn. "The risk of pancreatic cancer is markedly increased in chronic pancreatitis patients compared with the general population, especially in patients with an older age at onset and a >60 pack-year smoking history," according to a study published in the journal Digestive and Liver Disease.



Man and woman holding their bellies while sitting on the bed suffering from extra weight.

According to the American Cancer Society, having a BMI of over 30 is linked to a 20% higher chance of developing pancreatic cancer. One study shows that obesity may also negatively impact the survival rate for people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. "This study adds to mounting evidence for the role of weight control in improving outcomes for patients with cancer. It also reinforces the importance of maintaining a healthy weight throughout your life, which may lead to better outcomes after diagnosis and help prevent pancreatic cancer from developing," says Brian M. Wolpin, MD, MPH


Type 2 Diabetes

type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes could be a symptom of pancreatic cancer. "Diabetes Mellitus type 2 is a risk factor, a manifestation and a prognostic factor for pancreatic cancer. Up to 80% of pancreatic cancer patients present with either new-onset type 2 diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance at the time of diagnosis," according to an article published in JOP: Journal of the Pancreas. "Molecular biomarkers will be crucial to determine which patients with new-onset diabetes should be screened with endoscopic ultrasound for pancreatic cancer."

RELATED: Signs You Have Celiac Disease, Say Physicians


Exposure To Toxic Chemicals

chemical plant near water

There is growing evidence that exposure to specific chemicals may raise the risk of pancreatic cancer, especially for those in close contact with pesticides, benzene, certain dyes, and petrochemicals. "Excessive exposure to dry cleaning and metalworking chemicals may increase pancreatic cancer risk," says Johns Hopkins Medicine.

RELATED: Doctors Warn About These COVID Symptoms



Business man in glasses and warm clothes smoking cigarette on the street

Smoking significantly raises the risk of pancreatic cancer, especially for those with an inherited genetic predisposition to pancreatic cancer. "Patients with a family history of pancreatic cancer must be strongly counseled against smoking, and smokers with a family history of pancreatic cancer should be informed of their increased risk and offered enrollment into a smoking cessation program," one study concludes.

RELATED: I'm a Doctor and This is the #1 Sign You Have High Blood Sugar


When Should I See a Doctor?

woman consulting with her female doctor

If you are experiencing any symptoms that are causing concern, talk to a health professional as soon as possible to rule out any potential health issues. And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan
Filed Under