Many factors are suspected in the increased risk for developing the tumor: age, environment and lifestyle, diet, certain medical conditions, and others.
Age – pancreatic cancer usually occurs between the ages 60 and 71 years. Almost one hundred percent of patients are older than 45, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
Gender – the disease is slightly more common in men than in women. But some scientists believe the reason is because men tend to be more exposed to carcinogenic environments or lifestyle, smoking for instance.
Environmental Factors and Lifestyle – Smoking is the main risk factor of pancreatic cancer. The risk of developing the disease is triple in smokers compared to nonsmokers. It is estimate that cigarette smoking is responsible for one third of all pancreatic cancers. Furthermore, smokers tend to develop the disease at earlier age, with a difference of 10 years, compared to non-smokers. The average age of onset for smokers is 60, non-smokers 70.
Diet – although controversial, most scientists believe a diet high in animal fats and protein moderately increases the risk; conversely, high consumption of fruits, vegetables and vitamin C (in its natural form) may have some preventive effects. Moderate consumption of coffee does not increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.
Diseases – diabetes is not only a relatively common complication of this cancer but also a factor promoting its occurence. However, the risk for a diabetic patient to have pancreatic cancer during her life is less than 3%. Cirrhosis of the liver and helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection are also suspected in the occurrence of the tumor.
Pancreatic Diseases – Some rare conditions of the pancreas, such as chronic pancreatitis, may also promote the development of the cancer. Chronic pancreatitis is a prolonged inflammation of the gland; most often, it is due to a large and prolonged consumption of alcoholic beverages for several years. The theoretical risk of onset of pancreatic cancer is multiplied by a factor of about 20, but the absolute risk of developing it during lifetime is probably below 5%. In addition, some rare benign tumors of the pancreas can turn into cancer. Among these lesions include mucinous cystadenomas, a benign cystic tumor; serous cystadenoma (or microcystic adenoma), a type of benign cystic pancreatic neoplasm;and Intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms(IPMNs), a type of cystic tumor within the pancreaticducts (intraductal).
Genetic Factors – Genetic implication leading to the cancer of pancreas is rare, representing about 5% of pancreatic cancers. The transmission mode and the genes involved are most often unknown. Certain rare genetic disorders, such as those that predispose women to have breast or ovarian cancers (called BRCA2) or familial atypical multiplemole melanoma(FAMMM) syndrome, also increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.