What can I do to reduce my risk of pancreatic cancer?

Published on: 13/10/2020

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pancreatic cancer

Early detection of the disease is important to treat it successfully. The information necessary for a good diagnosis and treatment is obtained through medical history, physical examination and complementary examinations.

  • Medical history. When a person attends their first visit due to any symptoms or discomfort or as a result of the screening programme, the doctor, before carrying out any tests, will ask many questions related to their health, previous illnesses, illnesses of family members and certain lifestyles, such as dietary habits, work situation, smoking and alcohol consumption, etc. In addition, medical staff ask questions such as: What is wrong with you or how do you feel, in other words, they ask about the symptoms you have and how they affect your everyday life (number of symptoms, main symptom, when you last had it, when and how it started, what makes your symptoms worse and what improves them, along with other related questions. 
  • Physical examination. It is based on the direct screening of the body, through auscultation, palpation, percussion and observation, to identify signs of the disease. Depending on the result of the examination and depending on the possible diagnoses, the doctor will suggest, if necessary, performing a series of tests.
  • Complementary examinations or tests. Depending on the medical staff's assessment of both the interview and the physical examination, they will request any tests that may be necessary in order to make, confirm or rule out a specific diagnosis and establish the most appropriate treatment.

Non-modifiable risk factors

  • Sex: the number of cases is slightly higher in males. 
  • Race/ethnicity: black people are more likely to develop this type of cancer. The reason for this is unknown, but it may be due to the high rate of smoking and diabetes among men and the obesity among women of this race. 
  • Age: the majority of cases are recorded in people over 55 years of age. 
  • Diabetes mellitus: people with diabetes have a higher risk because of alterations that are given in the pancreatic cells. 
  • Chronic pancreatitis: this is a disease that affects this gland, and evidence suggests that it may be related to a higher tendency of developing pancreatic cancer. 
  • Liver cirrhosis: people who have this liver disease, which causes normal liver cells to die and their replacement by fibrous tissue, appear to be at higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer. 
  • Family history: if a person's parents or siblings have suffered from the illness, the risk is tripled. Pancreatic cancer appears to occur more frequently in some families. In some of these families, the high risk is due to the fact that they have certain hereditary syndromes, and in other families, the gene that causes the increased risk of pancreatic cancer is unknown.

Modifiable risk factors (factors associated with lifestyles)

  • Smoking: smokers have a two or three times higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer. 
  • Allowance: high intake of red meat and animal fats. 
  • Obesity: overweight people are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer.
  • Occupational exposure: intense exposure to certain pesticides, dyes and chemical substances used in metal refining could increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.