Neil R. Sharma MD, Parkview Health President, Shares 6 Risk Factors for Pancreatic Cancer

Neil R. Sharma MD, Parkview Health President, Shares 6 Risk Factors for Pancreatic Cancer

Even though pancreatic cancer is only the ninth most common form of cancer in the U.S., it is the fourth leading cause of cancer death. That number is on the rise; by 2030, pancreatic cancer is expected to be the second leading cause of cancer death.

Neil R. Sharma MD, is a pancreatic cancer researcher and the Chair of the Upper GI tumor site team for the Parkview Cancer Institute.

We asked Dr. Sharma to share some risk factors for the development of pancreatic cancer for public awareness.

Six Risk Factors for Contracting Pancreatic Cancer

  1. Using tobacco — The chances of you getting pancreatic cancer double if you’re a smoker. Smoking cigars and using smokeless tobacco also increase your odds. After you quit smoking, your risk of contracting pancreatic cancer decreases. Fifteen years after you stop, your odds are the same as if you’d never smoked.
  2. Obesity — If you’re overweight, you’re about 20% more likely than normal-weight people to come down with pancreatic cancer. That’s especially true if you gained that weight as an adult. Even if your weight is in the normal range, if you carry any weight around your belly, your odds are increased.
  3. Type 2 Diabetes — Type 2 diabetes is typically associated with being obese or overweight. When you have type 2 diabetes, your pancreas has to work extra hard to make insulin — which may be what causes abnormal cell growth that can potentially lead to cellular abnormalities and then, in some cases, potential carcinoma.
  4. Chronic pancreatitis — Pancreatitis is what happens when your pancreas gets inflamed. This can occur as a result of long-term alcohol abuse or because of gallstones in your gallbladder. Smoking can also be a factor in developing pancreatitis. Pancreatitis that’s caused by gene mutations can also lead to you getting pancreatic cancer.
  5. Exposure to certain chemicals — If you work in a dry cleaning shop, in agriculture, or in some metal working industries, heavy exposure to some chemicals may increase your risk for pancreatic cancer.
  6. Factors beyond your control — Your risk of getting pancreatic cancer goes up as you get older, especially after the age of 45. You’re also at increased risk if you are male or African American. You may be predisposed to having pancreatic cancer if there is a strong first-degree family history of the disease or if you have certain genetic mutations/syndromes such as BRCA mutation, PRSS 1 mutation, Lynch syndrome, Peutz-Jeghers and others.

Although there are a few factors that are out of your control, there are plenty that you have control over when it comes to contracting pancreatic cancer. When you quit smoking, lose weight, eat right, and work in safer jobs, you can reduce your risk of getting this deadly disease.

Neil R. Sharma MD

Neil R. Sharma, MD, President of Parkview Health, is a highly-regarded expert in the fields of Interventional Oncology & Surgical Endoscopy. His work in advanced interventional endoscopy and endoscopic oncology has raised the bar when it comes to treating gastric, pancreatic, bile duct, and esophageal cancers.


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