The risk of developing pancreatic cancer goes up as people age. The majority of pancreatic cancer patients are older than 45. About two-thirds are at least 65 years old. The average age at the time of diagnosis is 70.
Men are slightly more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than women. This may be due, at least in part, to higher tobacco use in men, which raises pancreatic cancer risk (see above).
African Americans have an elevated risk to develop pancreatic cancer than other races. The reasons for this aren’t clear, but it may be due in part to having higher rates of some other risk factors for pancreatic cancer, such as diabetes, smoking, and being overweight.
Although family history is a risk factor, many people who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer do not have a family history of it. If you do have a family history it is important to tell your doctor and be aware of risk factors and symptoms.
Inherited genetic syndromes.
Inherited gene changes (mutations) can be passed from parent to child. People with a strong family history meaning an immediate family member like a brother or parent that has been diagnosed are at high risk. This family history risk also includes people with three or more close relatives such as aunts, uncles, or grandparents that have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
People at higher genetic risk should discuss early screening with their doctor, even if there are no symptoms present.
Such gene changes may cause as many as 10% of pancreatic cancers. Sometimes these changes result in syndromes that include increased risks of other cancers.
Once these genes are revealed, you can work with your doctor to plan for additional tests if necessary.
Examples of genetic syndromes that can cause pancreatic cancer include:
If you believe you have a strong family link to pancreatic cancer, think about asking your doctor to put you in touch with a genetic counselor. A genetic counselor can read test results, help you understand your risk level, and discuss what to do next.