Causes and risk factors of pancreatic cancer
Most people with pancreatic cancer have no history of pancreatic cancer in their family. But about 1 in 10 pancreatic cancers (10%) may be linked to faulty genes that run in families. You may be at higher risk if you have any of these factors:
- You have two or more first-degree relatives that have pancreatic cancer. First-degree relatives are your parents, brothers, sisters and children.
- Some family members have the breast cancer gene BRCA2.
- Some family members have the condition Lynch syndrome /HNPCC (hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer).
- Some family members have a large number of unusual moles (FAMMM – Familial Atypical Multiple Mole Melanoma).
- You have a condition called Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (PJS). This causes multiple growths (polyps) in the stomach and bowel. It also causes dark spots on the skin on the face and hands.
If your family history includes any of the above, you can be referred to a specialist clinic. They can give you advice and assess you. They may offer you regular screening tests to try to find the cancer early if it develops. Doctors are still researching the best way to screen for pancreatic cancer.
You may be offered screening as part of a cancer research trial.
Studies have shown there may be a link between pancreatic cancer and an infection of the liver, called hepatitis B. Other research suggests there may be a link to tooth or gum disease. Researchers think a type of bacteria causes this.
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a common stomach infection that causes the stomach lining to become inflamed. There may be a link between H. pylori and a higher risk of pancreatic cancer, particularly in men. But the risk of stomach cancer is higher than the risk of pancreatic cancer.
Like all cancers, pancreatic cancer is not infectious. You cannot pass it onto other people.
Below is a sample of the sources used in our pancreatic cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
British Society of Gastroenterology. Guidelines for the management of patients with pancreatic cancer peri-ampullary and ampullary carcinomas. 2005.
European Society for Medial Oncology. Cancer of the pancreas: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Annals of Oncology, 2015. 26 (Supplement 5): v56 to v68.
Fernandez-del Castillo. Clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and staging of exocrine pancreatic cancer. UpToDate online. Jan 2018.
Fernandez-del Castillo C, et al. Supportive care of the patient with locally advanced or metastatic exocrine pancreatic cancer. UpToDate online. Feb 2017.
Winter JM, et al. Cancer of the pancreas, DeVita Hellman and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology (10th edition). Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. 2016.
This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Chief Medical Editor, Professor Tim Iveson, Consultant Medical Oncologist.
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