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How do I Reduce my Pancreatic Cancer Risk?

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  • Written By: Emma Lloyd
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2016
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Pancreatic cancer is a difficult disease to diagnose; because of this, more than 50% of people have metastasized cancer at the time of diagnosis. For this reason, it is wise to take steps to reduce pancreatic cancer risk. There are no well-established recommendations for reducing pancreatic cancer risk, but a healthy lifestyle and good nutrition may play a role.

Worldwide, pancreatic cancer is the fourth most deadly cancer for both men and women. The incidence rate of the cancer is 8-13 cases per 100,000 people, with differences in cancer incidence in several racial groups. This type of cancer has a poor prognosis; only one in twenty people survive more than five years after diagnosis.

Several factors, including lifestyle choices, are believed to increase individual pancreatic cancer risk. Some of these factors are circumstances which cannot be changed. For example, age is a risk factor, meaning that older people are more at risk. Most people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are over 45 years of age, and around 70% are older than 65. Certain genetic mutations may also increase the risk. These factors cannot be changed, but an awareness of the increased risk is useful because it may prompt the individual to have regular check-ups to screen for the cancer.

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Many other pancreatic cancer risk factors are circumstances which individuals can modify. One of the most important is cigarette smoking, as the risk of pancreatic cancer can increase by 20% to 50% for a smoker. For a long-time smoker, giving up the habit may reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer significantly. It may not cut the risk in half, however, due to the possibility of cellular damage having already occurred due to smoking.

Diet is also thought to play an influential role in pancreatic cancer risk. Some medical studies have shown that people with diets high in fat and meat have an increased risk. While this association has not been conclusively proven, it may be worthwhile to reduce the intake of these foods for many health-related reasons. Chronic exposure to certain chemicals, including gasoline and some types of insecticides, can also increase the risk; therefore another prevention measure is to avoid prolonged chemical exposure.

Certain chronic diseases may increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. People with chronic pancreatitis, diabetes, and chronic cirrhosis of the liver are more likely to develop this disease. In addition, people who undergo upper digestive tract surgery may also have an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. Again, while these factors cannot necessarily be changed, an awareness of the increased risk is important for pancreatic cancer prevention.

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