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Causes of Pancreatic Cancer and Risk Factors

Pancreatic cancer occurs when cells in the pancreas grow uncontrollably, forming malignancy. The cause of pancreatic cancer is definitely unknown, but there are several factors that can increase a person's risk of developing cancer. To find out what these factors are, consider the following explanation.

Pancreatic cancer is a condition in which there is a malignant tumor in the pancreas, an organ located near the stomach.

The pancreas is responsible for producing enzymes that the body needs to digest and absorb carbohydrates, proteins, and fats found in food. Apart from enzymes, the pancreas also produces two important hormones for the body, namely insulin, and glucagon.

Pancreatic cancer at an early stage generally does not have symptoms that are typical, or even asymptomatic. Pancreatic cancer usually only shows symptoms when the condition is quite severe. These symptoms include:

  • Decrease or loss of appetite.
  • Weight loss even if you are not on a special diet.
  • Pain in the upper abdomen that spreads to the back, pain can be more severe when lying down or after eating.
  • Yellow skin.
  • Indigestion, such as flatulence, diarrhea, and nausea.
  • The body feels weak.
  • Itching all over the body.

If you experience some of the symptoms above, immediately consult a doctor to determine whether the symptoms are caused by pancreatic cancer or not.

Read Also : Emotional Eating: When Emotions Affect Your Appetite

Causes and Risk Factors for Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer occurs when pancreatic cells undergo genetic changes (mutations), so the cells continue to grow and multiply uncontrollably.

So far, the exact cause of the genetic mutation in pancreatic cells is not yet known. Even so, there are some things that are known to increase a person's risk of pancreatic cancer, namely:

1. Hereditary factors

Someone has a risk of pancreatic cancer if one or both parents have had pancreatic cancer. This is presumably due to the genetic component of the cause of pancreatic cancer which is also inherited from children.

2. Old age

Pancreatic cancer occurs a lot in elderly people, namely those aged 50-80 years. Statistically, this disease is most commonly found in those aged between 65-70 years.

3. Smoking habits

In addition to heredity and age, smoking is also one of the risk factors that play a large role in increasing the risk of pancreatic cancer.

Based on the results of a study, it is known that about 30% of patients with pancreatic cancer are heavy smokers. Besides smoking, exposure to toxic chemicals can also increase a person's risk of pancreatic cancer.

4. Unhealthy diet

Not maintaining a diet is one of the risk factors that can cause pancreatic cancer. Unhealthy eating patterns that can cause pancreatic cancer are rarely consumed by fruits and vegetables and consume too much red meat and fatty foods, including fried foods, processed meat, or smoked meat.

In addition to these diets, alcohol consumption habits can also be a risk factor for someone getting pancreatic cancer.

Read Also : Recognize 7 Dangers of an Unhealthy Diet

5. Type 2 diabetes

Pancreatic cancer often occurs in diabetics and the exact cause is unknown. This risk is also higher in people with type 2 diabetes than type 1 diabetes. Allegedly, the cause is type 2 diabetics are also usually obese which increases the risk of pancreatic cancer.

6. History of certain diseases

There are several diseases that can increase a person's risk for pancreatic cancer, namely uncontrolled diabetes, chronic pancreatitis, gastric ulcer, H. pylori bacterial infection, and hepatitis B.

People who have a history of cancer, such as gastric cancer, mouth and throat cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, or prostate cancer, are also more at risk for pancreatic cancer.

In addition to the above factors, a number of other factors, such as lack of lycopene and selenium, being overweight or obese, often exposed to radiation at high intensity, or having undergone radiation therapy, can also increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.

Read Also : 5 Intake of Prostate Cancer Triggers

Prevent Pancreatic Cancer

Some risk factors for pancreatic cancer cannot be avoided. These unavoidable risk factors are old age and heredity. However, that does not mean that this disease cannot be avoided at all.

To reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer, there are several things that can be done, namely:

  • Undergo a healthy diet, namely by increasing the intake of fiber from vegetables and fruits, such as mustard greens, broccoli, guava, melons, papaya, and tomatoes.
  • Maintain ideal body weight. This can be done through a healthy diet and exercise routine.
  • Don't smoke and consume alcoholic beverages.
  • Avoid exposure to toxic substances, such as pesticides and certain synthetic coloring agents.

In addition to a healthy lifestyle, it is also important to routinely do a health check (check-up) to the doctor regularly to find out your overall health condition.

Especially if you have a parent or biological family with a history of pancreatic cancer, or if you have the risk factors mentioned above.



  1. American Cancer Society (2019). Pancreatic Cancer Risk Factors. 
  2. National Health Service UK (2018). Health A to Z. Pancreatic Cancer – Overview.
  3. Rawla, P., Sunkara, T., & Gaduputi, V. (2019). Epidemiology of Pancreatic Cancer: Global Trends, Etiology and Risk Factors. World Journal of Oncology.

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Health and clinical interests include all aspects of infectious diseases

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