The growth of cancerous cells within the pancreas, which is situated behind the stomach and is a part of the digestive system, is termed as pancreatic cancer. American Cancer Society estimates that the lifetime risk of getting pancreatic cancer is 1 in 63 in men and 1 in 65 in women, which is varied by certain risk factors.
It has been ascertained that knowledge and avoidance of these risk factors significantly prevents pancreatic cancer. While some are genetic and age-related, you can definitely control the others.
Risk factors of pancreatic cancer
The risk of pancreatic cancer increases with an advancing age with 90% cases diagnosed in individuals above the age of 55.
The risk of pancreatic cancer is higher among men than in women.
It is very likely for pancreatic cancer to run in families, which implies that you are at a higher risk if you have an affected parent, sibling or a close relative. This co-occurrence is so common that it has given rise to a condition termed as familial pancreatic cancer. So, if someone has been recently diagnosed in your family, you must visit your doctor for the required tests.
Other than this, the risk of pancreatic cancer is higher among those with Hereditary pancreatitis, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, Familial malignant melanoma and pancreatic cancer, Hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome, Lynch syndrome and Familial adenomatous polyposis.
History of pancreatitis
A history of chronic inflammation of the pancreas is associated with a higher risk of pancreatic cancer, which makes it very important to seek timely treatment for pancreatitis.
H. pylori infection
A common bacterium present in the stomach, H. pylori, is somewhat associated with pancreatic cancer in addition to stomach cancer.
So, it is advisable to get vaccinated against this agent to prevent repeated infections.
Diabetes has been recognized to be a distinguished risk factor for the occurrence of pancreatic cancer. This is particularly true for long standing cases of diabetes with excessively high blood sugar levels.
The association between diabetes and pancreatic cancer is so close that it has been proposed that a sudden rise in blood sugar levels can be an early sign of pancreatic cancer, particularly when manifested late in life. So, it is recommended to keep your blood sugar levels in check.
Smoking and alcohol consumption
Smoking is a significant risk factor for pancreatic cancer with a three-fold higher risk of this type of cancer in smokers. Cigarettes, cigar and pipes have an equal risk and so does consumption of tobacco in smokeless forms. 20-30% of the total cases are considered to be caused due to smoking habits.
Alcohol consumption also increases the risk by causing pancreatic inflammation. Moreover, excessive alcohol consumption can cause cirrhosis of the liver, which is another risk factor for this type of cancer.
Obesity is another important risk factor for pancreatitis with a higher rate of occurrence in both obese and overweight individuals. It has been ascertained that an excess weight increases the risk by about 20%. Those with central obesity or skinny fat individuals having an extra pooch of fat around their abdomen also share the risk.
In addition to being obese, if an individual is also physically inactive, the risk is higher.
Eating foods high in unhealthy or trans fats is strongly associated with a risk of pancreatic cancer while consuming fresh fruits and vegetables is inversely proportional.
Consumption of processed meats like sausage, bacon and ham has further found to increase the risk. Eating highly acidic foods has also been proven to be detrimental. These factors give an insight into the dietary changes you need to make to reduce your risk of pancreatic cancer.
Certain chemicals, smoke and fumes released in the metal working or dry cleaning industry increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. If working with these industries, it is very important to take the necessary workplace precautions to limit exposure to prevent pancreatic cancer.
You must note that risk factors are not a definitive cause, but, controlling them certainly helps in prevention. So, it is ideal to take care of the controllable factors especially if you are endorsed with those uncontrollable.