Smoking as a Risk Factor

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What is smoking? Does it make a difference if I quit?
Why is this relevant to pancreatic cancer? What about passive smoking?
Why can smoking cause pancreatic cancer? What about vaping and e-cigarettes?

What is smoking?

Smoking is when you burn a substance and inhale the smoke into your bloodstream. Most commonly tobacco.

When we are talking about smoking here, this includes cigarettes, pipes, snuffs and chewing tobacco. They all cause damage.

Why is this relevant to pancreatic cancer?

Smoking has been the confirmed main environmental risk for increasing the chance of having pancreatic cancer.

29% of pancreatic cases are caused by smoking.

Why can smoking cause pancreatic cancer?

This is because smoking damages our genes in our DNA which can cause cells to multiply and grow out of control. This is how cancerous tumours develop.

The risk of having pancreatic cancer increases the more you smoke, and the longer you have been smoking for.

Does it make a difference if I quit?


If you quit smoking this can reduce the risk of you getting pancreatic cancer. Research suggests that when you stop smoking, after many years (20) you would be at the same risk of having pancreatic cancer as a non-smoker.

Stopping smoking not only would reduce your risk of having pancreatic cancer, but has many other health benefits as well.

Stopping smoking can be difficult, but many people have so you can too. You don’t have to be on your own when you do this, support is there for you. SMOKEFREE NHS provides free, accurate, evidence-based information and professional assistance to help support the immediate and long-term needs of people trying to quit smoking.

NHS smoke free
Click to visit SMOKEFREE NHS website
Click for NHS smoke free app

What about passive smoking?

Passive smoking is when those around someone smoking can also inhale the smoke, causing them and yourself damage.

The European (EPIC) study showed that passive smoking (or second-hand smoke) either in the home or at work can increase the risk of pancreatic cancer by fifty per cent.

What about vaping and e-cigarettes?

The long-term risks of e-cigarettes are still not known. They have not been around long enough for long term research to be reliable in showing any of the risks they represent. However, although e-cigarettes usually contain nicotine (the addictive substance) in the e-liquid, it does not have many of the substances/ toxins that cause cancer.

See other risk factors

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Information Product No. | Published: 15/03/2018 | Last Updated: 20/02/2019 | Next Review Due: 15/03/2021