Frequently Asked Questions


I have a strong family history of pancreas cancer and I am worried about my risk. Are there any preventive measures I can take?

To date, standard screening recommendations for pancreas cancer do not exist. One of our research studies is looking at the effectiveness of various imaging techniques at being able to detect early stage pancreas growths or pre-cancerous lesions in high risk individuals. To learn more about this screening study, please visit the research section. In the meantime, please discuss your family history of cancer and possible screening options with your family doctor.

I've heard that pancreas cancer is rare. If that is true, what are the odds that I would have two relatives who both passed away from this disease?

Pancreas cancer is not as common as other types of cancer such as breast, colon or lung. In addition, most cases of pancreas cancer are likely random, or sporadic in nature. It is possible that two individuals in a family could both have pancreas cancer as a random occurrence. There may also be common environmental or lifestyle risk factors that may increase the risk for this cancer type in some families. However, it is possible that in some families, there is a hereditary predisposition, or genetic change, that can run in the family, and cause an increased risk for pancreas cancer.

Genetic studies are ongoing to try to identify the gene(s) involved in hereditary pancreatic cancer. If you would like more information regarding this research please visit the research section of this site.

Does smoking increase my risk for pancreas cancer?

Research consistently shows that cigarette smoking is a major risk factor of developing pancreatic cancer. For individuals who have a family history of pancreatic cancer, smoking further increases the risk for this disease compared to non-smokers. More studies are needed to look at the effects of second-hand smoke.

What other factors are associated with an increased risk for pancreas cancer?

More studies are needed to understand the environmental or lifestyle factors that increase the risk for pancreas cancer. In general, increased physical activity and a diet that is high in fibre, fruits and vegetables, and low in fat and meat consumption is recommended.  Please see our current and previous newsletters for more information.

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