Although pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancers, its causes are not well understood. As November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, we are focusing on risk factors, warning signs and resources you can turn to for help.

With an 8% survival rate, pancreatic cancer has the lowest 5-year survival rate of any major cancer. It is the third leading cause of cancer death in the United States. It is estimated that 53,070 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2016, and 41,780 will die of the disease.

Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the following risk factors and symptoms, provided by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. For more information, visit the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network or click here to see infographics summarizing this information.

Risk Factors

  • Family history. Your risk increases 2-3 times if your parent, sibling or child has had pancreatic cancer.
  • There is a higher incidence of pancreatic cancer among people who have had diabetes for more than 5 years.
  • If you have pancreatitis—chronic or hereditary—you are at higher risk.
  • If you smoke cigarettes, you are 2 times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than someone who has never smoked.
  • Race (Ethnicity). African-American individuals are at higher risk than are people of Asian, Hispanic or Caucasian descent. Risk is also higher for Ashkenazi Jews, possibly due to a mutation of the breast cancer gene (BRCA2).
  • Being older than 60, male, or obese also may increase your risk, along with a diet high in red or processed meats.


  • Pain in the abdomen or back
  • Loss of appetite
  • Yellowing of the eyes or skin (jaundice)
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Change in stool
  • Recent onset of diabetes
  • Symptoms that may indicate pancreatic cancer are also associated with many other conditions. You know your body better than anyone else—as always, see your doctor if you experience these or any other unusual symptoms.


American Cancer Society,

Pancreatic Cancer Action Network,