Can Pancreatic Cancer Be Prevented?

There is no sure way to prevent pancreatic cancer. Some risk factors such as age, gender, race, and family history can’t be controlled. But there are things you can do that might lower your risk.

Don’t smoke

Smoking is the most important avoidable risk factor for pancreatic cancer. Quitting smoking helps lower risk. If you smoke and want help quitting, please talk to your health care provider or call us at 1-800-227-2345.

Stay at a healthy weight

Getting to and staying at a healthy weight might also help lower your risk. While the effects of getting physical activity and eating well on pancreatic cancer risk are not as clear, both of these can help you stay at a healthy weight.

The American Cancer Society recommends choosing foods and beverages in amounts that help you get to and stay at a healthy weight. Eat a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant foods. This includes at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits every day. Choose whole-grain breads, pastas, and cereals instead of refined grains, and eat fish, poultry, or beans instead of processed meat and red meat. For more, see the American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention.

Limit alcohol use

Heavy alcohol use has been tied to pancreatic cancer in some studies. This link is still not certain, but heavy alcohol use can also lead to conditions such as chronic pancreatitis, which is known to increase pancreatic cancer risk.

Limit exposure to certain chemicals in the workplace

Avoiding workplace exposure to certain chemicals may reduce your risk for pancreatic cancer.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Beavers TB, Brown PH, Maresso KC, Hawk ET. Chapter 23: Cancer Prevention, Screening, and Early Detection. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Dorshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa. Elsevier: 2014.

Fernandez-del Castillo C and Jimenez RE.  Epidemiology and nonfamilial risk factors for exocrine pancreatic cancer. UpToDate website. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/epidemiology-and-nonfamilial-risk-factors-for-exocrine-pancreatic-cancer. Updated May 14, 2018. Accessed January 2, 2019. 

Winter JM, Brody JR, Abrams RA, Lewis NL, Yeo CJ. Chapter 49: Cancer of the Pancreas. In: DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015.

Last Medical Review: February 11, 2019 Last Revised: February 11, 2019

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