Smoking: risk factor of pancreatic cancer

Smoking is a modifiable risk factor. This means that you can change your own risk through behaviour and lifestyle choices. Stopping smoking can reduce your chances of pancreatic cancer.

symptoms diary
Patient Information Booklets

Symptoms Diary

If you are having symptoms you feel might be pancreatic cancer and you are worried, this diary could help you to talk to your doctor. Using a symptoms diary will help you track when you have been having symptoms, and how frequent and persistent they are.

Smoking can increase your chances of getting pancreatic cancer. No form of smoking avoids risk and quitting smoking or better still not starting remains the best way to reduce your chances.

What is smoking?

Smoking is when you burn a substance and inhale the smoke into your bloodstream. In this instance the focus is on the smoking of tobacco.

Why is this relevant to pancreatic cancer?

Smoking has been confirmed as increasing your chances of developing pancreatic cancer. The more that you smoke and the longer you smoke for, the greater the risk.

Why can smoking cause pancreatic cancer?

Tobacco smoke contains hundreds of harmful and dozens of carcinogenic compounds. These are chemicals that cause cancer either by damaging DNA causing mutations in our genes or by changing how cells reproduce and die. Cells grow and multiply out on control and tumours develop.

Reducing the risk

The more cigarettes you smoke the greater the risk of pancreatic cancer. Cutting down reduces your risk but quitting is the best way to reduce risk of pancreatic cancer and other long-term health problems. Research has found that when you stop smoking your risk gradually reduces and after approximately twenty years becomes similar to that of someone who has never smoked.

Stopping smoking is challenging. 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.

Passive smoking

Passive smoking is the inhalation of smoke, often called second hand smoke in the context of tobacco or environmental smoke.

Passive smoking either in the home or at work can increase the chances of pancreatic cancer. Children and unborn babies exposed to tobacco smoke frequently have an increased likelihood of the disease in adulthood.

Vaping and e-cigarettes

The long-term risks of e-cigarettes are unknown. They are relatively new products which have not been reviewed and there hasn’t been time for long term studies to assess their health impact. E-cigarettes usually contain nicotine (the addictive substance) in the e-liquid which is harmful when the body metabolises it (breaks it down). However, they do not contain many of the other harmful, cancer causing chemicals found in tobacco smoke.

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Information Product № Published 15/10/2019
Last Updated 21/06/2021 Next Review Due 15/10/2022