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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Causes of pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer affects about 7000 people in the UK each year, so is not a common type of cancer. Very little is known about the causes of pancreatic cancer. It occurs mainly in people aged between 60 and 80, and is rare below the age of 50; although some of the rarer types (such as neuroendocrine and papillary cancer) may affect people in their 20s and 30s.

People who smoke cigarettes are more at risk of developing cancer of the pancreas. People who have a condition called chronic pancreatitis, where the pancreas becomes inflamed, are also more likely to develop it. One of the main causes of chronic pancreatitis is drinking large amounts of alcohol over long periods of time.

Most cancers of the pancreas are not caused by an inherited faulty gene, and so members of your family are highly unlikely to be at an increased risk of pancreatic cancer because you have it. However, some families who have inherited the faulty breast cancer genes BRCA1 or BRCA2, or a bowel condition called FAP, have a higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

Members of families with a tendency to have large numbers of unusual moles, also have an increased risk of cancer of the pancreas. However, the genetic changes which cause these cases of pancreatic cancer have not yet been found, and so currently there is no genetic test available for pancreatic cancer.

Via: http://www.cancerbackup.org.uk

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