Risk factors of pancreatic cancer

The causes of pancreatic cancer are unknown, and most cases occur out of the blue. However, there are some things that make developing pancreatic cancer more likely. Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is known as a risk factor.

Having any one of the risk factors listed below does not mean that you are going to get pancreatic cancer.

Instead they are a guide as to what research has shown can increase the chances. If you are concerned about any of the risks or need more advice on how to reduce your personal risk, try talking to your GP.

Some risk factors cannot be changed. There is nothing that you can do to avoid them. These are known as non-modifiable risk factors and include things like age and genetics. Knowing about them is still useful, it means that you can be aware of your personal risk and look out for symptoms.

Other risk factors are avoidable or can be reduced through changes to your lifestyle or environment. These are known as modifiable risk factors. Examples of these are smoking and alcohol consumption.

What are the risk factors of pancreatic cancer?

Cigarette smoking

There is a direct relationship between the amount you smoke and the risk of pancreatic cancer.


The risk of developing pancreatic cancer increases with age.


There have been a number of reports which suggest that diabetics have an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer.


Research indicates that obesity is associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer in men and women.

Chronic pancreatitis

Long-term inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) has been linked to pancreatic cancer.


Pancreatic cancer by itself (not part of a known syndrome) runs in some families. People with first degree relatives (mother, father, brother, sister) diagnosed with pancreatic cancer have an increased risk of being in that type of family.

The Information Standard Logo The information provided in this site, or through links to other websites, is not a substitute for medical or professional care and should not be relied upon as such. Read our disclaimer.

Sources and references for this information product will be supplied on request. Please contact us quoting the Information Product number below:

Information Product № PCA0144v1 Published 15/10/2019
Last Updated 15/05/2021 Next Review Due 15/10/2022