Especially if you have pancreatic cancer in your family, there are things you should consider doing to reduce your risk of pancreas cancer.

Lifestyle Changes

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Don't Smoke

Cigarette smoking is the most preventable cause of pancreatic cancer. Cigarette smoking accounts for 25-30% of pancreatic cancers. Smoking cigarettes doubles the risk of pancreatic cancer, regardless of race. Smoking rates among African American adults historically have been higher than among the general U.S. population. However, in recent years smoking rates for blacks and whites are similar. Cigarette smoking is the most preventable cause of pancreatic cancer.

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Eat Healthy & Maintain a Healthy Weight

The risk of pancreatic cancer is elevated in diets high in fat and calories. Processed meat high in nitrates, such as bacon and bologna, also increase the risk. The human body may process nitrates into cancer causing chemicals, called carcinogens. In addition, the risk of pancreatic cancer increases with body mass. You should aim to maintain a healthy weight. Through eating a balanced, healthy diet, and managing your weight, you can also reduce your risk of type II diabetes.

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Diabetes Mellitus

There are two types of diabetes, Type I and Type II. Type I diabetes has not been linked to pancreatic cancer. However, Type II diabetes, which tends to occur in adults, has been shown to double the risk of pancreatic cancer. Type II diabetes is associated with obesity and lack of exercise. Diabetes can sometimes be caused by pancreatic cancer.

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Limit Alcohol Intake

Heavy alcohol use can lead to chronic pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is an inflammatory disease of the pancreas. Pancreatitis may either be acute (sudden and severe) or chronic (long-standing). Individuals that have had repeated attacks of acute pancreatitis can develop chronic pancreatitis. The risk of pancreatic cancer is elevated in all patients with pancreatitis and African Americans are at the highest risk of developing pancreatitis of any racial group.

Genetic Testing

If you have pancreas cancer in your family, you may wish to consider clinical genetic testing and/or participating in a research study on screening for early pancreatic cancer.

Genetic testing is a medical test and should be conducted only after consulting with a trained genetic counselor and your health care providers. To learn more about genetic testing for pancreatic cancer, visit the NIH Genetic Testing/Counseling site.

Screening for Early Detection

Screening: Currently, there are no clinically proven screening tests for individuals with a family history of pancreatic cancer. Certainly, we can give some common-sense advice. First, it is important that you discuss your family health history with your doctor. Second, if you have a family history of pancreatic cancer, and even if you do not, you should quit smoking if you smoke, you should try to maintain a healthy body weight through diet and exercise, and the American Cancer Society recommends that we should all eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Finally, there are also clinical research trials, such as the CAPS ("Cancer of the Pancreas Screening") study, which evaluate the effectiveness of early detection screening for individuals with a family history of pancreatic cancer.